Sandy hits GH beaches

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:48 AM

Although the hurricane is hundreds of miles away, a National Weather Service wind advisory is in effect for Michigan until 8 tonight. Winds are expected to blow between 20 and 30 mph today, with gusts to 55 mph.

Waves on parts of Lake Michigan are expected to build to 33 feet today before subsiding to less than 20 feet Wednesday night. Along Grand Haven's shore, waves of 10-15 feet are forecast.

Scattered power outages are possible from the high winds. Loose objects could be caught in the wind — and driving, especially for high-profile vehicles on east-west roads, could become difficult.

Although water levels are low, Sgt. Glenn Bo of the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety said they will take precautions and close City Beach, if necessary, and notify establishments and residents in the area large waves could be generated.

“We’re going to continue to monitor it,” he said Monday.

Wayne Hoepner, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, explained that the hurricane’s impact relates to two systems running into each other. He said a wicked wind between the two systems is the result, which could lead to downed power lines or branches in roadways.

“If you’re out and driving, you need to watch the road,” Hoepner advised.

A warm coat will be necessary for trick-or-treaters on Wednesday night.

Hoepner said Wednesday’s forecast calls for highs in the upper 40s and lows in the upper 30s, with a chance of rain and snow during the day.

“It’s going to be unpleasant,” he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will monitor the Grand Haven pier during the storm, said Tom O’Bryan, area engineer of Lake Michigan office.

Another issue O’Bryan said they would keep an eye on is shoaling, where sand is carried by waves into deeper water levels. He said they expect shoaling might obstruct navigation channels, and they would have to inform shippers.

“That will be a big concern,” O’Bryan said.

Grand Haven State Park Supervisor Joyce Rhodes said park officials had already begun winterizing the park, which will also help protect the buildings from the winds. She said park officials have already installed the snow fences and the flushing toilets have been closed for the season.

“We’re rushing to get our shutters up and buildings buckled down to get the outside work done,” Rhodes said Monday.

Since the state park officially closed Sunday, people hoping to see the anticipated large waves will have an obstructed view, Rhodes said. She doesn’t recommend getting out of your car at the shore because you might get blasted by blowing sand, and waves will be dangerously crashing over the pier and channel seawall.

“Anybody going on the pier is putting their life in the hands of Mother Nature,” Rhodes said.

People parked along Grand Haven's shore on Monday afternoon to see the beginning of Lake Michigan's fury. Muskegon residents Mike and Tammy Huck enjoyed lunch from inside their van as they watched the waves from the City Beach parking lot.

“It’s impressive to come down and see what that lake can do,” Mike Huck said.

In anticipation of wind-related outages, Consumers Energy service centers are being staffed around the clock early this week, company spokesman Roger Morgenstern said.

While contractors are being released to help out the eastern seaboard states, the majority of Consumers Energy's forestry and line crews will remain on alert in West Michigan, Morgenstern added. Thirty forestry crews and 20 distribution line workers — all contractors — have been released for this storm, he said.

Consumers Energy is sending 14 engineering support personnel to assist First Energy in Maryland, Morgenstern said.

“These people will help assess the damage after the storms go through," he explained. "They will help prioritize where the work will be done."

Renee Molyneux, spokeswoman for the Grand Haven Board of Light & Power, said the local utility's crews might go out of state once in a while, but it isn’t a common practice. She said they don't plan to do it with this storm.

Tribune reporter Becky Vargo contributed to this story.

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