BY ANNE STANTON
TRAVERSE CITY —
Heavy, wet snow and strong winds have taken their toll overnight and into today, darkening thousands of homes and closing schools across the region, including Northwestern Michigan College.
Thousands of residents in Leelanau County and Benzie County are currently without power. Consumers Energy reported 8,588 outages in Benzie County this morning because of downed high voltage lines and 3,358 outages in Leelanau County. Grand Traverse County fared better with 1,833 outages. Lines in Onekama and Northport went down last night with the high winds, said Roger Morgenstern, Consumers Energy spokesman.
He said additional contract crews are on the way. The company hopes to get power back on line by midnight tonight. In harder-hit areas, power might not return until Saturday, Morgenstern said.
“The wind and the heavy snow, it’s just not a good combination for our power lines,” Morgenstern said.
He anticipates more outages as high winds pick up during the day.
In Traverse City, there were 150 reports of partial power and just three homes reporting no power at all, said Jim Cooper, manager of communications and energy services at Traverse City Light & Power.
“So far it’s looking pretty good,” he said. “We did massive preparation and training yesterday. Thankfully, we’ve been able to do OK so far.”
Outages reported by Cherryland Electric Cooperative are concentrated in Leelanau County with 1,390 outages and Lake Ann with 1,175. General Manager Tony Anderson said there’s no estimated time for the power to return.
“We have two extra crews now, five extra crews on the way,” Anderson said this morning. “We’re obviously hoping we’ll get it up before dark. The wind keeps blowing and it will keep adding up. The numbers have been climbing since 11 last night. We’re hoping the wind will go down after lunch.”
Winds are expected to reach 25 to 30 miles per hour today, with gusts up to 50 miles per hour, said Justin Arnott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gaylord
“Wind is the biggest story today,” he said. “Fifty miles per hour isn’t out of the question. They were that strong out in Manistee already. It still looks on track to be one heck of a windy day.”
Ten inches of snow fell yesterday in the out-county areas. Traverse City residents saw a lighter snowfall of about five inches. Another one to three inches of snow are expected today, Arnott said.
For a Consumers Energy outage map, go to www.consumersenergy.com/outagemap. For a Cherryland Electric map, go to http://outage.cecelec.com/.