Freezing rain, ice leads to power outages, school closures

Krystle Wagner • Feb 7, 2019 at 7:00 AM

After freezing rain coated West Michigan on Wednesday morning, crews worked to restore power to thousands of homes and businesses.

Power outages started being reported in the early morning as ice weighed down lines and trees. Widespread freezing rain resulted in ice accumulations of about one-third of an inch in the Muskegon area, said Mike Sutton, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Grand Rapids.

Locally, initial power outages were reported shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday, impacting about 808 customers in the West Spring Lake Road area, according to Renee Molyneux, spokeswoman for the Grand Haven Board of Light & Power.

Although power was restored to the area shortly after 8 a.m., it went out again. Power was restored at around 9:20 a.m.

About 2,195 customers in the City of Grand Haven lost power at around 2:46 a.m. Wednesday. It was restored at 7:30 a.m. That outage encompassed homes from North Harbor Drive to Colfax Avenue and east to Beechtree Street.

The outages affected several local school buildings, prompting the Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Fruitport districts to close for the day. 

An outage from Colfax Avenue south to Robbins Road took place from 4:47 a.m. to 7:06 a.m. Molyneux said about 1,042 customers were effected.

As of 10 a.m., crews were working to address 35 scattered power outages, one or two customers at a time. Molyneux said the outages were the result of limbs on lines or fallen trees related to the ice.

“We have everyone working to restore power as quickly as we can,” Molyneux said Wednesday morning.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, nine outages in the BLP coverage area remained, according to the utility’s outage map.

Throughout the day, Consumers Energy crews also worked to restore power to more than 50,000 West Michigan customers.  As of 10 a.m., about 5,500 Ottawa County customers were without power.

Some customers weren’t expecting to have their power restored until late tonight, said Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern. He said the outages came with a lot of damage, downed trees and wires, and it takes a “significant” amount of time to make those repairs. He asked residents to be patient as crews worked to restore power.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, 41,600 Consumers Energy customers were still without power.

Final restoration for customers in the hardest hit areas may continue until approximately noon Friday, Consumers Energy reported, and the forecast for more wintry weather over the next two days may result in additional outages, said Guy Packard, the utility’s vice president of electric operations.

From damage assessors to call center representatives and lineworkers, more than 1,100 Consumers Energy employees and contractors were engaged in the restoration efforts Wednesday. An additional 20 mutual assistance crews were expected Wednesday evening from Kentucky to assist with electric restoration work in West Michigan, Packard said.

Consumers Energy customers can report an outage online at www.consumersenergy.com or by calling 800-477-5050.

The public is encouraged to not touch downed power lines and remain at least 25 feet away from them. You are encouraged to call 911 if you see a downed line.

Residents running generators are also encouraged to ensure that they are properly installed. Do not use a generator indoors.

Looking ahead at the forecast, more precipitation was expected with some areas of freezing rain this morning. Sutton didn’t anticipate accumulations as high as what the area received Wednesday.

A surge of cold air is expected to arrive late today into Friday, bringing with it strong winds and lake-effect snow. Highs on Saturday could be in the lower 20s and lows between 10 and 15, Sutton said.

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