TRAVERSE CITY--That sound? It would be a roar.
Heavy, wet snow downed tree limbs and caused power outages throughout the region in a lion-sized early March storm.
The storm dumped 9 to 16 inches of snow around the Traverse City region beginning Friday night, said meteorologist Jeff Halblaub, of the National Weather Service in Gaylord.
Lake-effect snow continued to fall throughout Saturday. The Grand Traverse area could see another 1-2 inches of snow today, with isolated spots getting up to 5 inches of snow, Halblaub said.
Authorities warned drivers to stay off the roads Saturday. Thousands of residents lost power as heavy snow weighed down tree limbs and caused branches to fall on service lines.
Consumers Energy reported 28,100 customers were without power in the five-county region about 4 p.m. Saturday.
Spokesman Timothy Pietryga said about 4:30 p.m that customers in Benzie, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Antrim counties may not receive service until late Monday night, though some should receive service sooner. Some customers in Grand Traverse, among the hardest hit counties, may not receive service until mid-day Tuesday.
"We're on a 24/7 schedule," Pietryga said. "We are throwing every resource that we have possible up in northern Michigan to obviously expedite the restoration process."
Additional crews from Illinois and Indiana traveled north Saturday to help with the work.
Traverse City Light & Power also called in downstate line and tree-trimming crews to help restore power. About 2,400 city utility customers were without service around 5 p.m. Saturday.
"These have been kind of coming in and out all day. You fix it and then another tree falls on it," said Jim Cooper, manager of communications and energy services.
A Light & Power estimate made Saturday at 5 p.m. indicated its total system would be restored within 12 to 24 hours, though officials cautioned melting snow might cause additional downed wires.
Cherryland Electric Cooperative's website on Saturday about 5 p.m. reported outages affected 16,089 members.
Shelters opened throughout the region to help people cope with the storm. Benzie County Sheriff Rory Heckman said emergency workers planned to evacuate a couple dozen residents and take them to shelter locations. Heckman said evacuees were people with medical issues or elderly residents who couldn't stay in cold houses. Heckman said about 95 percent of Benzie lost power, and many of the side roads were impassable Saturday because of fallen trees and power lines.
"We've had some accidents, but luckily we haven't had any serious injuries," Heckman said, just after noon Saturday. "This is going to be a long haul for us."
The huge amount of snow made it difficult for volunteers who wanted to help storm victims.
Elmwood Township resident Leo Smith and his wife, Chimera, are American Red Cross volunteers, but they needed a bit of assistance themselves before they could deliver supplies to Benzie County.
Their Red Cross van was buried in a foot-plus of heavy snow outside the old township fire station off Cherry Bend Road in Leelanau County early Saturday afternoon. The Smiths shoveled and scraped, but couldn't make much progress.
They were in a hurry to head north to a storage site to pick up cots, blankets and food, then backtrack south to the Benzie County disaster relief shelter.
That's when Guy Hursh pulled up in his Leelanau County Road Commission plow truck. Hursh angled off Cherry Bend, nudged his truck's blade to within inches of the Red Cross vehicle and cleared a path to send the Smiths on their way.
"I haven't seen it this bad in a while," said Hursh, who lives near Pathfinder School off M-22. He'd worked since 5 a.m. and pushed his way through miles of snow-choked roads and past downed power lines and fallen trees.
Main roads were relatively clear by mid-afternoon, but mainly residential areas remained blocked, particularly areas where power lines were down, he said.
In Kingsley, Diane Walton counted 15 to 20 people eating an afternoon meal Saturday at The Rock of Kingsley Youth Center, which opened as a shelter. Walton, the center's director, said the building lost power but a generator was running. The center offered its building as a warm place to sleep Saturday night for those without heat and power. She said at least one family of eight planned to stay the night.
"We've got heat. We've got a fireplace down here, so we're good to go," she said. "It's a full youth center, so we've got people that are eating and playing pool and listening to music ... . Everybody's just chilling out."
All this snow might not be around for long. Temperatures are expected to reach into the 40s Tuesday through Thursday, with highs approaching 50 degrees on Wednesday, said Halblaub, the meteorologist.
TRAVERSE CITY--That sound? It would be a roar.
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