Power outages continue to be a problem for thousands of customers across northern Michigan. In northern lower Michigan, one of the hardest hit spots was Leelanau County, which had about 6,000 outages Tuesday morning.
“Wind gusts have been around 45 mph with peak wind gusts around 55 mph, mostly along the lakeshore,” Consumers Energy Media Spokesperson Josh Paciorek says. “Most of these outages are along the western part of the state along the lakeshore. As the wind gusts, that’s where the wind gusts are higher. As we move inward, wind gusts are coming down a little bit.”
Lakeshore living is known for taking the brunt of quite a few storms, high wind included.
“Obviously we’ve had quite a bit of winds and rain, which have brought down quite a few trees and power lines, or caused them to arc between the two of them,” Leland Township Fire Chief Dan Besson says.
The 30 to 45 mile per hour wind gusts are not uncommon in Leelanau County, which sits right along Lake Michigan. But the fire chief says one thing that is hard to prepare for is the call volume that follows a storm like this.
“We’ve had 45 road hazards, 13 arcing wire calls and 18 wires down throughout the county,” Besson says. “We’ve been pretty busy. It comes in kind of waves. Some hours we’re trying to handle, for us in Leland Township we’re trying to handle three, four, five calls at the same time with just a handful of people on duty.”
Blue Moon Ice Cream in Cedar was one of the businesses impacted by the strong winds. Owner Bret Crimmins says he “received a text from Consumers Energy notifying me the power was out in Cedar.” That early morning alert caused a bit of a panic, since the ice cream requires electricity to stay frozen.
“When I walked in the microwave and the clock radio were working and weren’t doing their ‘blink’ they do when the power goes out. But this (one) machine was basically off and the lights were blinking,” he says. “Panic. Panic is definitely the word. Because all the freezer storage and product only lasts for a couple hours even if I keep it covered and insulated.”
The anxiety is familiar, but doesn’t get any easier. “Typically when I get those texts it’s panic. I’ve gone through it numerous times over the last number of years,” Crimmins says. Fortunately the outage was limited to one machine and was temporary, so no product was lost.
Meanwhile fire and EMS crews help block roads where downed trees and power lines are a threat. Paciorek says, “When wind gusts are above 35 mph you’re not able to get crews up in the bucket trucks. But what you are able to do, is crews are assessing damage. There’s a number of things they can do on the ground safely to get the power back on.”
“We don’t see as many severe thunderstorms as we do in the summer months. But as you start seeing as you get ready for winter months are more wind events. Wind is a huge problem for, in terms of power outages in Michigan,” Paciorek says.
Strong wind like this isn’t unheard of, and crews were on standby ahead of this storm. “It’s not unusual but it’s something we’ve been watching for the past several days now. We had our trucks stocked, our crews staged up in northern Michigan, so they could be activated and ready to go,” Paciorek says.
No high-wind event would be complete without a safety warning about those downed lines.
“Even the experts will sometimes have a hard time in the darkness as trees are falling, to see if it’s a communications line or a power line. And even though the power line may not be arcing doesn’t mean there isn’t energy going through it,” Paciorek says. “You’ve got to stay 25 feet away from it and anything it’s touching. If it landed on a fence or vehicle make sure you stay 25 feet away from that object as well.”
If you see a downed line, call 911 first, then call your electric company.
You can reach Consumers Energy at 800-477-2050.
And you can check out all the power outages .