April showers: Spring storm keeps Michigan in icy grip, hampering travel

A flower near Manistee's Fifth Avenue Beach is still thinking spring during the weekend's winter storm. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

A flower near Manistee’s Fifth Avenue Beach is still thinking spring during the weekend’s winter storm. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

MICHIGAN — A deadly storm system churning through the central U.S. blanketed parts of Michigan in heavy snow and ice over the weekend while battering areas south of the state with powerful winds and even tornadoes.

Manistee County certainly felt the effects of the unseasonable storm, as snow shovels and plows were necessary tools as if it were still the dead of winter.

On Friday, the City of Manistee experienced extreme water level fluctuations in the Manistee River Channel, due to a weather phenomenon called a seiche, which is not particularly uncommon during severe weather.

A seiche is caused by extreme high or low-pressure systems and/or wind-driven “wave run up,” resulting in sudden and extreme water fluctuations.

The City of Manistee’s Department of Public Safety reported over the weekend that the fluctuation levels in the City of Manistee River Channel and surrounding areas have calmed and appear to be heading back to the norm.

Due to observed damages to the City of Manistee Marina and extended Riverwalk, the entire City Riverwalk will remain closed to all accesses until officials can better assess its structural integrity. This closure will also include area lots surrounding Lake Michigan, River Channel and Manistee Lake.

In addition, for the safety of all citizens, the following areas will also be closed until further assessments are completed: First Street Beach boat launch; Lion’s Pavilion parking lot on Fifth Avenue; Beach parking lot on the Ninth Street boat launch; and the Arthur Street boat launch.

City of Manistee officials thank all citizens for their patience while the situation is further assessed.

On Sunday afternoon, Great Lakes Energy (GLE) reported that power had been restored to nearly 20,000 GLE members in 22 counties following the major storm.

Crews continued to work Sunday afternoon to restore power to the remaining 668 GLE members in parts of Allegan, Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Crawford, Emmet, Kalkaska and Otsego counties. More outages are possible, however, as the storm is not expected to exit the state until sometime today.

Restoration crews made good progress Saturday after the first storm wave brought at least a foot of wet, heavy snow in some areas along with ice, wintry mix and damaging winds. At 9 p.m. on Saturday, power had been restored to nearly 11,000 GLE members throughout the cooperative’s 26 county service area with little over 500 remaining without power.

GLE crews assisted by outside contractor crews continue their repair work Sunday after the second wave of the storm arrived Saturday night bringing more destructive winds, ice and wintry mix.

Keith White, a weather service meteorologist in Marquette, Michigan, said moderate to heavy snow was falling Sunday morning in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He said more than a foot was possible by early Monday in the communities of Ishpeming and Negaunee, west of Marquette. Powerful winds knocked out power to thousands of customers in Michigan, which was expected to get more snow and ice throughout the weekend.

The weather service also warned of potential coastal flooding along Lake Michigan in Wisconsin and Illinois, where Chicago residents were warned that waves could reach as high as 18 feet (5.5 meters).

About 200 flights were cancelled Sunday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where two runways were open but nearly 13 inches (33 centimeters) of snow combined with strong winds were making it difficult to keep the runways open and the planes de-iced, spokesman Patrick Hogan said. On Saturday, the storm caused the cancellation of nearly 470 flights at the airport.

Two northeastern Wisconsin communities, Tigerton and Big Falls, received more than 2 feet (61 centimeters) of snow over the weekend, the National Weather Service in Green Bay reported. Parts of the state that were already blanketed were getting a second helping of snow on Sunday.

The storm finally let up in South Dakota, allowing the airport in the state’s largest city, Sioux Falls, to reopen for the first time since Thursday. Interstates 90 and 29 in parts of eastern South Dakota also reopened, and no-travel advisories were lifted across the state border in southwestern Minnesota. The weather service predicted that a large swath of southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, could get up to 20 inches of snow (51 centimeters) by the time the storm moves eastward into New England.

There have been three deaths blamed on the storm system, which stretched from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes. A sleeping 2-year-old girl in Louisiana was killed when a tree fell on her family’s recreational vehicle early Saturday. A Wisconsin woman was killed when she lost control of her minivan on slick roads and veered into an oncoming SUV. And an Idaho truck driver was killed when his semitrailer struck a semi in western Nebraska that had been stranded on a highway by the bad weather.

In Arkansas, a tornado ripped through the tiny Ozark Mountain town of Mountainburg on Friday, injuring at least four people. Video showed uprooted trees, overturned cars, damaged buildings and downed power lines. Powerful winds also damaged several buildings at the University of Central Arkansas, though no injuries were reported there.

The storm made its mark in Texas, where hail the size of hen eggs fell south of Dallas, according to meteorologist Patricia Sanchez. In Austin, fire officials said strong winds helped spread the flames after lightning struck and badly damaged two houses.

Manistee News Advocate staff contributed to this report.

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