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Storm cleanup winding down

Becky Vargo • Jul 11, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Crews were moving off the roads and into the local parks and cemeteries Monday, making progress on cleaning up three days after a windstorm dropped countless trees in the Tri-Cities area.

Power has been restored and residents have returned to work, leaving some families working on their own to clean up the mess.

Volunteers cleared trees off the roads at Grand Haven’s Lake Forest Cemetery on Friday, but conditions were still too dangerous to allow people in to visit graves, said Earl Jorgensen, grounds crew leader for the city’s Department of Public Works. City workers were picking up the “little stuff” so the cemetery could be mowed, and he expected more crews to show up Monday afternoon to start cutting up at least a dozen large trees that had fallen there.

Jorgensen said he didn’t know, at that point, whether or not any headstones had been damaged.

He was hopeful that they could open the cemetery back up to the public before Friday.

Another city crew worked just inside the entrance of Duncan Memorial Park off Sheldon Road. They were cleaning debris off the entrance road and along the side.

“It’s mostly safety related, said grounds worker Adam Van Oeveren.

Van Oeveren said it was a bit of a relief to get off the main roads.

“On Friday, we did a dozen trees, just clearing them off the road,” he said. “Four of those trees were by the hospital.”

Trucks from many different tree crews and power companies were visible all afternoon Monday.

On Ferris Street near Lakeshore Drive, members of the Eich family dragged branches to the edge of their property, making sure to point the trunks to the road so it was easier for the tree crew to grab them and put them in the chipper. 

“We’re in line,” said homeowner Harvey Eich, as he; his wife, Ellen; daughter Tammy; and grandchildren Lauren and Allen, worked up a sweat.

Ellen said: “We just had four trees taken down in April. We called the same guy to come back.”

Harvey noted that last week’s storm damage wasn’t as bad as 1980 when seven trees fell on the roof of the house, breaking the trusses.

Farther down Lakeshore, at Burkshire Drive, John Ratter looked at his backyard, which used to be full of trees that shaded his deck.

Ratter said his wife, Amy, woke up during Friday’s storm because of the lightning.

“We heard the wind. It sounded like a train coming at us,” he said. “We went into the basement.”

The homeowner said they never realized they lost the trees until they went outside later.

“All you heard was wind and hail and things hitting the roof,” he said. 

But Ratter was lucky. A few missing shingles and some bent gutters appeared to be the only damage to his house. 

Ratter said he was waiting for an assessor to arrive to determine what would be done next.

A group of friends had already helped him cut up some of the trees that had fallen to the ground. 

Ratter said he lost 8-10 trees in the storm. The beech and oak trees were 90- to 100-feet tall, and healthy.

“We had just taken out 5-6 sick trees about six weeks ago,” he said.

Ratter said power was restored to his home Saturday afternoon. The Eichs got their power back on Sunday.

In the city of Grand Haven, Board of Light & Power crews continued to work on little outage pockets on Monday.

BLP spokeswoman Renee Molyneux said about 2,500 customers lost power in the storm. Most homes had power restored by Saturday, while some had to wait until Sunday.

“The biggest challenge this time was the substantial damage in small pockets,” she said. “It took a lot of work to get a few people on at a time. It really slowed us down.”

Molyneux said crews worked from the time of the storm until 11:30 p.m. Friday. They were back at it at 7 a.m. Saturday and continued until 11 that night. They worked all day Sunday, as well.

BLP crews were assisted by Holland and Zeeland public works departments, Kent Power, and Lowell Municipal Light and Power.

Anyone still without power needs to call and report the outage, Molyneux said Monday.

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