BY ART BUKOWSKI
TRAVERSE CITY — Russell Dzuba is no stranger to strong storms.
But Dzuba, Leland’s harbormaster, was impressed with the wicked winds and rain that battered the northern Leelanau County harbor on Tuesday.
Big waves pounded the breakwall and kept the floating docks bouncing all day long.
“There’s nothing less than 10 feet right now, and they’re coming over the breakwall at a frightful pace,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Much of the nation’s attention focused on superstorm Sandy as it pummeled the east coast, but northern Michigan was caught in its own batch of nasty weather. Winds gusts topped 50 miles per hour in some areas, and rain fell on most of the region throughout the day.
“I can’t remember the last time it was this windy,” Gaylord-based National Weather Service Meteorologist Andy Sullivan said.
The nasty weather in northern Michigan is tied to Sandy’s pressure system as it moves inland, Sullivan said. Winds were expected to taper off considerably by late tonight, but rain will continue to be a possibility for much of the week.
“This system is weakening, but it will be slow to move away,” Sullivan said.
Down in Frankfort, the storm attracted spectators.
“There’s been a lot of onlookers down at the turnaround watching waves crash against the breakwall and lighthouse,” City Superintendent Josh Mills said.
City workers recently removed several dead or dying trees, and Mills was plenty glad they weren’t still standing when the heavy winds hit. The wind direction actually helped remove some sand that had accumulated on pavement near the water, Mills said.
The Grand Traverse region avoided major damage as of late this afternoon, though central dispatch officials throughout the area kept busy sending crews to deal with felled trees and other wind-related issues.
“We’ve had branches in roadways, wires ... the whole nine yards,” said Leelanau County dispatcher Matt Ansorge.
Strong north winds blew loads of sand onto Grandview Parkway and other areas near the beach in Traverse City. City crews used a plow to move some out of the way.
“Once the wind dies down, we’ll go in there, pick it up and put it back where it belongs,” said Bob Cole, the city’s public works director.
The city was on track to avoid major damage, though the wind made quick work of tidy leaf piles.
“The main complaint we’re hearing is that their leaves were blown away,” Cole said.