Inclement weather causes cancellations Thursday

Many drivers in Manistee lifted up their windshield wipers to prevent them from freezing to their windshield on Thursday morning. (Michelle Graves/News Advocate)

MANISTEE COUNTY — From freezing rain to rain back to freezing rain then snow, the weather ran the gamut in Manistee County on Thursday, causing all the school districts to cancel classes and some businesses to close early.

Manistee County Transportation even pulled its buses off the roadways Thursday morning due to a number of slide-offs in the area.

West Shore Community College cancelled afternoon and evening classes, and many meetings and events scheduled for Thursday were cancelled, such as:

• City of Manistee Planning Commission meeting scheduled for 7 p.m.;

Icy windows were a common occurrence throughout Manistee County on Thursday morning. (Ashley Schudlich/Courtesy photo)

• Historic District Commission meeting scheduled for 4 p.m.; and

• Launch Manistee “Clear the Road to College” scheduled for 3:30-6:30 p.m.

On Thursday, freezing rain in western Michigan was blamed for leaving about 130,000 homes and businesses without power as of 4:30 p.m. The majority of outages occurred from ice damage that brought down trees and electric lines in Kent County and metro Grand Rapids.

“This series of ice storms has caused additional outages and is making it very challenging for our crews to assess damage and accurately predict individual restoration times. We are focused on supporting our customers in Western and Northern Michigan, especially with the risk of high winds causing additional damage,” said Guy Packard, vice president of electric operations for Consumers Energy.

Consumers Energy says high winds forecast for Thursday and into Friday could bring additional outages as they hit ice-covered wires. The utility said early Thursday that power lines are coated with nearly a half-inch (1.3 centimeters) of ice, with much of the damage including downed trees and power lines in Grand Rapids and surrounding Kent County.

The majority of customers without power should be restored by late Sunday, Packard said, but in the hardest hit areas that could extend into Monday.

The double coating of ice weighted down trees, causing them to fall on or touch electric lines in many areas. The cumulative effect of the ice is equal to 500 pounds of additional weight which has also caused electric lines to snap under this pressure.

Over 2,400 downed electric lines have been reported since Wednesday. Packard urged customers and the general public to stay at least 25 feet away from downed power lines, keep children or pets away, and report the issue by calling 9-1-1 or Consumers Energy at 800-477-5050.

Rick Smith gets out of his kayak on Water Street near his home in Portland, Mich., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. An ice jam formed overnight causing flooding and forcing evacuations by boat along the river. (Neil Blake /The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

“Our number one focus is to keep the public and our crews safe as we work around the clock and call upon mutual assistance crews to assist us in our restoration efforts. We know how frustrating it is to not have electric service, and we won’t stop until all of our neighbors have power,” Packard said.

More than 1,200 Consumers Energy employees and contractors, from lineworkers, damage assessors to call center representatives are engaged in restoration efforts. An additional 100 mutual assistance personnel have arrived from Kentucky to assist with electric restoration work in west Michigan, and the company is seeking additional mutual assistance help.

The outages come as areas along the St. Joseph River in southwestern Michigan and the Grand River in mid-Michigan are dealing with flooding.

In northern Michigan, blizzard conditions are possible.

Manistee County is under a winter storm warning until 7 p.m. today, with the forecast calling for heavy mixed precipitation with additional snow accumulations of one to three inches, with localized amounts up to five inches and ice accumulations of one-tenth to one quarter of an inch expected, according to the National Weather Service.

Winds gusting as high as 45 mph will cause blowing and drifting snow.

Patchy blowing snow is expected after 4 p.m. today with the temperature falling to around 11 degrees by 2 p.m. with wind chill values around -9. Tonight, snow showers are likely, before 2 a.m. The low will be around 5 degrees with a wind chill as low as -7.

Consumers Energy urges the public to keep these important safety tips in mind:

• Call 2-1-1 if you are looking for help connecting to temporary shelter or other resources that offer assistance in your community. 2-1-1 is a free statewide service.

• Never use a generator in an attached garage, basement, enclosed patio or near any air intakes. Doing so could cause a generator to produce hazardous levels of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless and deadly gas.

• Be alert to utility crews working along roads. Drivers should slow down or stop and wait for oncoming traffic to clear so they safely can go past workers on roadsides.

• Consumers Energy will trim or remove trees interfering with electric restoration activities. Once safe to do so, clean-up of debris from tree trimming or removal during a storm emergency is the responsibility of individual property owners.

• In some cases, the mast which holds the electric service wires to a customer’s home or business may have been damaged or torn away. Crews will reconnect the wires to a home, but only a licensed electrician can repair or replace a mast or a cable.

Consumers Energy customers can sign up to get outage alerts and restoration times sent to a phone, email or text message, Text ‘REG’ to 232273 or visit ConsumersEnergy.com/alerts.

Customers can also report an outage, check the status of an outage and get useful tips for what to do after a storm by visiting ConsumersEnergy.com/OutageCenter.

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