Strong winds hit Manistee early Thursday morning

Several trees in the City of Manistee were damaged during Thursday morning's storm. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

Several trees in the City of Manistee were damaged during Thursday morning’s storm. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — The morning may have started earlier than expected for many Manistee residents on Thursday, as severe thunderstorms rolled off Lake Michigan, bringing with them gusts of wind nearing 70 miles per hour.

Between 4 and 5 a.m., the City of Manistee took the brunt of the wicked weather as it damaged trees, utility poles and left nearly 300 residents without power for much of the day.

“By and large, given how stable and cool the temperatures were last night, we weren’t really expecting a tremendous wind threat with these showers,’ said Brian Adam, senior forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Gaylord office. “Normally, when you’d expect strong winds to be down on the ground like that, it would be much warmer out and most likely during the day.

“Cold air over the lake or down low (on the ground) tends cap things off, if you will, but obviously it can still happen — and did this morning — if the conditions are just right and you get a storm merger like this one.”

Adam said Manistee County Blacker Airport reported a wind gust of 68 mph at 4:22 a.m. on Thursday, the same time temperatures were in the low to mid 40s around the county.

“Tracking this back to the west, it actually started as a complex of showers and storms across Wisconsin and into Iowa (on Wednesday) evening,” Adam said. “It started intensifying out over the central part of Lake Michigan as it traveled to the east and north.

“The whole line itself, as it came on shore from Lake Michigan, expanded from Leelanau County to just north of Grand Rapids, so quite a few counties were affected, but the Manistee-Mason county area definitely got the business end of it with the strong winds.”

Adam said the storm weakened rapidly after moving east and north from Manistee, but in its wake were downed trees and power lines, primarily within the city limits.

“We had tree damage citywide, some areas specifically more than others,” said Manistee Department of Public Works (DPW) leadman Brandon Prince whose crew was busy Thursday morning collecting damaged trees and limbs to remove and cut. “What we did first was take care of the trees that were in the roadways, to open them up for emergency vehicle and vehicle traffic.

“Then we moved onto the larger trees reported and of course we’ll have the minor branches that have fallen in people’s yard that they’ll be setting out in the road that we’ll be chipping in in the next week.”

Prince reported minor damage was done to the Fifth Avenue Beach House and the First Street Lions Pavilion during the storm, and a portion of the city’s Riverwalk was closed to foot traffic due to a fallen tree.

“We’ve had 25 mile-an-hour winds do some damage,” Prince explained, “so being what it was, I would say we were doing OK. It wasn’t as devastating as maybe it could have been for the town as a whole.”

Manistee County Road Commission manager Mark Sohlden reported county crews responded to roughly a half a dozen instances of tree damage, but no major cleanup was necessary along county roads.

Manistee Area Public Schools and Kaleva Norman District Schools were affected by Thursday’s power outages, as were nearly 300 City of Manistee residents, according to Roger Morgenstern, senior public information director for Consumers Energy.

“We made some pretty good progress in the morning” Morgenstern said Thursday afternoon, reporting power had been restored to nearly all residents affected between 2 and 3 p.m. “The remaining residents should be on by about 5 o’clock tonight.”

At the end of Elm Street in Manistee, a crew from C.C. Power Electrical Contracting replaced a utility pole that had been snapped in the wind.

“This was about the typical damage we would see in a severe storm in terms of broken poles and downed wires,” Morgenstern said. “Often times the downed lines are a result of fallen trees.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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