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19 years ago, wind storm devastated Tri-Cities

Matt DeYoung • May 25, 2017 at 10:00 AM

It’s been 19 years since a wind storm — known around these parts as “The Wind Storm of 1998” — devastated the Tri-Cities. 

Wind gusts were clocked at more than 120 mph in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 31, 1998, when a storm rolled across Lake Michigan and slammed into the Lakeshore. 

The result? Trees were toppled like toothpicks. Roofs were ripped off buildings and slung hundreds of feet through the sky, landing with reckless abandon. 

The Story & Clark piano factory smokestack near what is now the Harbourfront Condominiums in downtown Grand Haven was toppled, smashing into hundreds of pieces in the parking lot below. 

Mill Point Condominiums in Spring Lake collapsed, trapping several people inside. Fortunately, no one suffered serious injuries. 

At Grand Haven State Park, campers scrambled for cover in the bathrooms as their pop-ups, travel trailers and motorhomes blew across the park. 

“It was like a war zone,” one camper said. 

The Tri-Cities area was declared a local state of emergency. More than 800,000 Consumers Energy customers were without power. 

Early estimates put the damage at somewhere between $20 million to $25 million. 

The greatest loss of all was the death of Consumers Energy employee Paul Luna, who was electrocuted when he stepped on a downed power line that was covered by beach grass. 

‘Devastating winds’

That day, the Grand Haven Tribune devoted its entire front page and all of Page 3 to coverage of the storm. Two additional inside pages were filled with photos showing the wreckage left in the storm’s wake.

Over the next several days, the residents of the Tri-Cities slowly but bravely recovered from the storm. Power was eventually restored, wrecked buildings rebuilt and downed trees removed. 

But the memory of the storm lives on for all who experienced it. 

For more photos, see our #TBT gallery from this week in 1998.

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