Traverse City —
BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
and ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — The March 2012 storm: epitome of in-like-a-lion, stuff of local lore.
We’ll be talking about it for years.
Snowfall that measured by the foot, a 12-hour barrage that massed and felt like poured cement. Flattened shrubs and tree limbs that snapped and cracked and sounded all the world like gunshots.
Impassable roads, an eerie morning-after scene dominated by stark white, and, for thousands of households and businesses, darkness.
Perhaps 200,000 northern Michigan electricity users lost power late Friday, March 2 and into Saturday as falling trees clipped power lines.
Laurie Klingelsmith lost power at her Green Lake Township home on Friday at about 11 p.m. The lights didn’t come back on until Sunday at 7 p.m. On Saturday, she and her family headed to Traverse City to stay with her mother, but travel wasn’t easy.
“We had to chainsaw our way out of the driveway,” Klingelsmith said.
Before the power returned, Klingelsmith’s clan scrambled to collect oil lamps, wood and other supplies. Next time, she said, they’ll be prepared.
“I told my husband this was the time to have an emergency stash,” she said.
Traverse City resident Christine Jaymes gathered flashlights and candles before the storm hit. She and her husband lost power for about 24 hours and the items came in handy.
“We knew it was coming,” she said. “This time, the weatherman was right.”
Tart cherries decimated
Area cherry farmers reported widespread damage to orchards. Older tart cherry trees took the brunt.
Overall damage estimates range from a low of 5 percent to a high of 20 percent of the cherry crop in Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Benzie, and Antrim counties, experts said.
“We got our butt kicked, said Leelanau County farmer Jeff Send. “It could equate to the loss of 15 to 20 million pounds of product, and it’s not just gone this year, it’s gone for the next 10 years.”
The storm snapped branches or leveled entire trees. Damage varied, depending on how much snow fell, Leelanau County farmer Steve Kalchik said.
Rob Manigold, a Peninsula Township cherry farmer, said orchards there sustained heavy damage, though losses primarily were confined to older tart cherry trees.
Francis Otto of Cherry Bay Orchards reported spotty storm damage to his crop north of Suttons Bay. Some blocks of trees showed no damage, but older orchards were hard hit, with up to 35 percent of tart cherry trees destroyed.
“As the wood gets older it starts to get brittle and they just snapped off,” Otto said.
Apple and sweet cherry trees appeared to have escaped serious problems, and vineyards aren’t the worse for wear, said Nikki Rothwell, district horticulturist at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station.
Rothwell said farmers won’t be able to come up with firm damage estimates until they’re able to access their back lots.
Send rode a snowmobile to check on one of his blocks of 400, 10-year-old trees that are nestled in a wooded area to protect them from wind damage.
This storm threw a curve at Send. Snow fell in waves over the taller woodlot and directly onto the fruit trees nearest the woods.
“I’ve been farming all my life -- I’m 58 years old -- and I’ve never seen anything like this storm,” Send said. “The first three-to-five rows up against the woods, it was just more weight than the trees could support.”
Officially, the storm dumped between 19 and 23 inches of heavy, wet snow on Leelanau County, but emergency management officials said they received unofficial reports of up to 3 feet of snow in some areas.
Leelanau County officials asked Gov. Rick Snyder to declare the county a disaster for agricultural purposes, a designation that could provide farmers state and federal assistance.
“Usually it’s just a low-interest loan, but a loan is just a loan and you still have to pay it back,” Kalchik said.
The wacky winter of 2011-12 already cut into revenue at the nonprofit ski hill, Mount Holiday, just outside Traverse City. A slow start to the season pushed back the opening date and business was hit-and-miss in the new year.
Then the storm hit and cut power to the ski area from early Saturday through Thursday night.
“It’s been a hard year,” said Michelle Konstanzer, Mount Holiday’s food and beverage director. “We couldn’t open in beginning because there wasn’t enough snow, now we couldn’t open up because too much snow.”
Konstanzer estimates the resort lost out on $20,000 in revenue last week, and workers were forced to throw out about $8,000 worth of food. It’s a big hit for the nonprofit, which already faced an uphill funding battle amid the bad economy.
“I’m not taking a paycheck, so I can help my staff ... I have people trying to raise kids, and they just got the week off with no pay. For those living paycheck to paycheck, that’s not easy,” she said.
Mount Holiday was one of nearly 20,000 Cherryland Electric Cooperative customers — more than half the utility’s 34,000 customers — that lost power last week. Tony Anderson, the utility’s general manager, said the damage was the worst for Cherryland in at least 35 years.
“People who have worked here all that time have been telling me they’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
Cherryland was one of the last utilities to restore service to all its customers; fewer than 500 were still without power Friday morning. Anderson acknowledged the utility had difficulty finding outside crews to assist in the storm’s aftermath.
“We were short-handed in the beginning, but there were 200,000 people out of power in all of northern Michigan, and it was tough to get crews,” Anderson said. “I had all my people, but I didn’t have a lot of extra help until Monday.”
By Tuesday, 25 crews were at work on Cherryland lines. Fifteen more crews were at work by Thursday.
Faced with a flood of incoming calls to report outages, Cherryland staffers turned to Facebook to keep its customers informed.
“We’d tried really hard, but you have to understand, we’ll never be where we can answer 20,000 phone calls. We can’t even handle 5,000 phone calls, but 364 days of the year we don’t need to. So we used Facebook to alleviate that,” Anderson said. “People mainly just wanted to know what’s going on. It was a pretty good tool.”
Traverse City Light & Power also struggled to handle the influx of callers.
“The phone system got locked up early in the process,” said Executive Director Ed Rice. “With so many coming in at once, even the answering system got overloaded. People just got locked out of communication. We need to do better there.”
Rice said 8,000 of Light & Power’s 11,500 customers were without power at the storm’s peak. Almost all had their power restored by Monday night.
“We were able to acquire downstate crews pretty early in process. We started calling about midnight on Friday,” he said.
More than 60,000 Great Lakes Energy customers were in the dark at some point, said Dave Guzniczak, the utility’s spokesman. Heavy snow made it difficult for crews to repair the lines.
“It was very difficult to get to trouble spots. Some you couldn’t get trucks to, other trucks were getting stuck. It was even difficult with snowmobiles and snowshoes,” Guzniczak said. “Two years ago in October, we had a two- or three-day wind storm that actually created more outages — over 90,000. But we probably restored power quicker when we had 90,000 because didn’t have to deal with this wet, heavy snow.”
Mount Holiday’s Konstanzer is upset that the power outages took such a heavy financial toll on the nonprofit, but said Cherryland and the other utilities did the best they could under the circumstances. Her husband works for a power company, and he’s shared stories of devastation after tornadoes and hurricanes elsewhere in the country.
“We didn’t lose any lives, just food,” she said. “Food can be replaced, lives can’t.”
Biggest since ’78?
Traverse City Police Capt. Steve Morgan believes the storm was the biggest since the famous blizzard of 1978.
“Looking back, I can’t remember a storm ... that had that large an impact on the city,” he said. “I don’t ever remember getting that much heavy, wet snow in such a short period of time.”
Residents generally stayed off city streets during the early period of the storm, Morgan said. But plenty ventured out later; some just sought information about when roads would be cleared or power returned.
Morgan said he hopes residents learn from this storm and create a stash of emergency.
“Everybody should take the responsibility for themselves and be prepared to stay in their homes for a couple of days if they have to ... . I think up here, people should realize that being out of power for 24 hours, 36 hours or even two days is a very real possibility.”
The storm wreaked havoc in the region, but no serious injuries were reported. And that’s remarkable, police said, with all the icy roads, downed power lines and tree limbs and other hazards.
“It’s unfortunate that people went a week without power, but to not have anybody injured seriously, we’re very fortunate,” Grand Traverse sheriff’s Capt. Randy Fewless said.
Gerry Thibert lives near Torch Lake in Antrim County’s Milton Township. He heats with wood, and nearly all of his neighbors who had gas-fired heat lost it during the storm.
So he had about 15 to 20 neighbors over to his house, and they learned to appreciate his old-fashioned method.
“They always wondered why we continued to heat with wood,” he said. “They sure thought it came in handy this time. We were the only ones who had heat.”
Thibert said plenty of people who lived around him helped their fellow neighbors, so in a way, the storm was uplifting.
“It brought our neighborhood closer together,” he said.
Linda Miller, who lives on Veterans Drive in Traverse City, wasn’t without power for long. She didn’t mind not having the ability to use her television and other appliances.
“You get so used to all of those amenities,” she said.
As many as 200,000 lost power in massive storm last weekend
Traverse City —
BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
Traverse City West students launch weather balloon
Teen job outlook better in 2013
The pressure is on for Brooke Stocking to find her first summer job. The Traverse City teen, 16, is on two cheer teams and will compete this summer in Virginia Beach.Continued ...
Grand Traverse student heads to national spelling bee
Eighth-grader Charlie Donahue remembers his first spelling bee, way back in third grade. He was over-confident then, and a “very easy” word bounced him from the competition.Continued ...
Four pets safe in house fire
Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department crews responded to a fire Thursday at 2:10 p.m. in the 4500 block of Buckhorn Drive.Continued ...
Record numbers audition for 'Les Misérables'
Old Town Playhouse added a fourth audition for the musical Les Misérables after a record number of people showed up to try out.Continued ...
Two charged for making meth at local motel
Two people face criminal charges stemming from a meth lab discovered at Shadowland Motel.Continued ...
Annual Rhubarb Social in Bear Lake
Kick off summer vacation with an annual rhubarb social at the Bear Lake Christian Church.Continued ...
- Friday, May 24, 2013
Snyder, Stabenow slated to speak at Helen Milliken service
United States Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Gov. Rick Snyder are among those expected to speak at a Monday, June 3, memorial service for former Michigan First Lady Helen Milliken.Continued ...
Memorial Day: Weather, gas prices and highway enforcement
An annual ceremony to honor veterans has a new location this year. More than 400 people are expected to attend a service Monday at the Grand Traverse Veterans Memorial Park. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. at the park off 11th Street near Elmwood Avenue.Continued ...
Traverse City schools officials prepare for bond
Traverse City Area Public Schools officials said they’ve learned from last year’s failed bond campaign and hear loud-and-clear what voters want in a 2013 capital improvement project proposal.Continued ...
Utility cuts trees beyond easements, property owners say
Lynn Tilson is trying to save 374 of her red pines from the chainsaw. Michigan Electric Transmission Company marked the trees for removal, beyond the 50-foot easement Tilson believes the utility has on either side of its power lines.Continued ...
Conservancy offers farmers a shorter-term option for land
For the last 30 summers, Dennis and Barb Dean traveled from their Alaska home to tend to their sweet and tart cherry orchards in Williamsburg.Continued ...
Elk Rapids now has authorized baccalaureate school
Elk Rapids Middle School is being recognized for adopting a world-renowned education style, and other local districts are prepared to follow suit, thanks in part to a $3 million Kellogg Foundation grant.Continued ...
BATA bus struck during three-vehicle accident
A Bay Area Transportation Agency bus was damaged in a three-vehicle collision at the intersection of Three Mile and Hammond Road.Continued ...
Benzie County home destroyed in fire
Benzonia Township Fire Department Chief John Hanmer said units responded to the fire on Thursday at about 11 a.m. He said no one was inside the Cook Road home and the occupants were at work.Continued ...
Eligibility issues cut short TC St. Francis baseball season
St. Francis High School’s baseball team’s season prematurely ended.Continued ...
Memorial Day-related services in Traverse City region
Memorial Day-related services in Traverse City region:Continued ...
- Thursday, May 23, 2013
Accused stalker faces more charges
A Grawn man who already is facing stalking charges is accused of breaking into the home of the female victim and attempting to take her dog.Continued ...
Victory for medical marijuana patients
Medical marijuana patients and advocates scored a victory after the state’s top court issued a decision on a long-running Grand Traverse County case.Continued ...
Parking lot argument chills Bardon's
Robin Bisel and Jean Cline licked ice cream cones at Bardon’s Wonder Freeze off Front Street and wondered how they’d maneuver through traffic when finished with their treats.Continued ...
Presidential Scholar has struggled with illness
Nicole “Niki” Tubacki doesn't remember much about her early childhood except for swinging outside in the sun.Continued ...
Man said to trade drugs for sex
A man arrested in Leelanau County for violating probation is accused of trading drugs for sexual favors with young women in Missaukee County.Continued ...
Car crashes into rocks near house
A Glen Arbor woman told deputies she fell asleep before she ran a stop sign and crashed her vehicle into a row of boulders near an Empire Township home.Continued ...
Local educators honored
The Outstanding Educator Award, sponsored by the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and TBA Credit Union, is given annually to a handful of public, private and parochial educators in the Grand Traverse region.Continued ...
Man enters guilty plea in assault
A man accused of beating his live-in girlfriend in East Bay Township pleaded guilty to assault charges.Continued ...
- Traverse City West students launch weather balloon