MAPLE CITY — Everyone has a storm story to share, and Gabe's Country Market owner Kathy Gabourie hears them all as she hovers over the cash register.

Customers late last week still buzzed about the violent Aug. 2 storms as Gabourie rang up six-packs of beer and half-gallons of milk. Gabourie reported the mood in Maple City remained upbeat throughout the week as electricity returned and life readjusted to normal pace.

"We really were very blessed," Gabourie said. "Everybody lost something, but those were just material things. They can be replaced."

South of this Leelanau County town Maple City Road neighbors Shirley Lawson and Bill Bevelhymer expressed a similar sentiment as they swapped their own storm tales with Shirley's brother-in-law Len Lawson.

Lawson, a Cedar resident, said the storms that swept across the Grand Traverse region reminded him of typhoons he endured when he served in the Pacific Ocean during his time in the Army in the late-60s and early-70s.

"When I looked out the door in Cedar, I told my wife 'This is just like Okinawa,'" he said.

The short conversation ended after Bevelhymer dropped off a chainsaw he sharpened for a man who toiled to disassemble a massive box elder toppled across Shirley Lawson's backyard. The three agreed they had more to be thankful for than many.

The scene was indicative of events playing out across the Grand Traverse region in the wake of last week's devastating storm: neighbors helping neighbors, and people getting on as best they can.

Sheer community willpower brought recovery efforts a long way in four days, but those facing long-term storm repercussions are now looking beyond their neighbors — to their insurance companies, state officials and federal policies — to make things whole again.

Still open for business

Glen Arbor sits on Lake Michigan's shore less than 10 miles from Maple City, but finding a route into the picturesque town proved difficult most of the post-storm week.

Tourists coming and going from Glen Arbor normally drive past Laker Shakes' Burdickville Market as they swing around Glen Lake's southern end. That wasn't the case one day late last week as utility crews blocked the road outside the market.

Not that owner Elly O'Neill was in any sort of shape to serve ice cream. Even with power returning, O'Neill's ice cream stocks were lost days earlier. Now she had to wait for a delivery truck to restock her inventory as she contemplated what likely will amount to five days of lost sales during her busiest time of year.

O'Neill estimated she lost thousands of dollars in sales and inventory, not to mention lost wages for her employees and cash for her suppliers.

"The economic impact is huge," she said.

O'Neill added she's hopeful her insurer will help make up for the loses, a sentiment echoed by business owners across the lake.

Matt Wiesen, who owns Glen Arbor's M-22 store, along with nearby bicycle and watersport rentals, was one of many Glen Arbor business owners who opened shop without power late Thursday in a shout-out to vacationers and locals alike: Glen Arbor is still open for business.

Wiesen also offered a message for insurance companies as he stood outside his powerless businesses.

"We hope insurance companies step up," he said. "There's not a greater time that we should be eligible for (insurance), and they need to step up and do what's right."

Jeff Jones, a AAA regional manager, said his company is sending additional insurance adjusters to northern Michigan in order to address service needs stretching from the Traverse City area to Tawas.

“We’re going to be here to help and we’re going to keep at it as long we need to," he said.

Jones encouraged people to contact their carriers or agents with specific coverage questions, since all insurance policies are different.

State of emergency

Some, like Maple City resident Deborah Rock, don't have insurance and will need to look elsewhere for help.

The top of a utility pole still poked through Rock's living room ceiling late last week. Loose insulation and drywall hung from a gaping hole in her roof created when the storms snapped the pole in half. Two plastic bins were positioned below the hole to catch possible rain water.

"I'm thankful that I'm OK, that I wasn't hurt, but financially it will take care of what little savings I have," Rock said. "What can you do? You just take it day by day."

For Rock, one source of hope lies with the state. Officials from Leelanau, Grand Traverse and Kalkaska counties declared local states of emergency, the first step in determining whether businesses and homeowners will be eligible for financial relief from the state.

Grand Traverse County officials estimated losses in their county alone totaled $16 million. The figure includes more than $9 million in private property damage and more than $6 million in damages related to public facilities and infrastructure, officials said in a written statement.

Leelanau County assessment teams continued to pull together damage estimates in their county on Friday. Matt Ansorge, the county's emergency manager, said officials are working to meet state reporting deadlines so Gov. Rick Snyder's office can decide whether the situation warrants state-declared emergency status.

A big lifesaver this season

The federal government offers another source of hope for local farmers who watched wind and hail devastate their crops and trees.

Congress' 2014 Farm Bill drastically expanded crop insurance coverage available for local growers, especially cherry growers. Those who signed up for the insurance stand to recoup a large portion of any losses they've incurred, said Ben LaCross, an agriculture advocate and cherry farmer at LaCross Farms in Cedar.

The tart cherry yield in northwest Michigan this season totaled about 85 million pounds, LaCross said. About 66 million pounds of tart cherries were harvested as of Aug. 2, leaving 19 million pounds of cherries on trees to be battered by storms.

LaCross called storm damage to Leelanau County's orchards "significant," with lots of fruit ruined and many trees knocked over by high winds, further damaging future potential crop outputs.

"I think the biggest lesson to be learned is the importance of crop insurance to the region."

"It is going to be a big, big life-saver this season," LaCross said of the Farm Bill.

Hard season's end

Still, LaCross and other farmers and grape growers hustled around the county with a sense of urgency one afternoon as they attempted to harvest what crops remained and prepare products for market as they combated power outages.

"It makes the end of a hard season even harder when you're dealing with power issues," LaCross said.

Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery north of Cedar already felt the sting of thousands of dollars in wasted product and labor when they first lost power following the storms. Roughly two tons of cherries sitting in the vineyard's press had to be dumped in the compost pile, winemaker Blake Lougheed said.

Then, insult to injury. Lougheed and the winery's other staff members had wine loaded into their bottling line on Aug. 6 when they unexpectedly lost power again at about 4 p.m.

"It's just a huge inconvenience if we can't bottle today," Lougheed said.

Lougheed said he was behind the vineyard running a forklift on Aug. 2 when the storms rolled in. He watched as an ominous bank of clouds roared across the sky above the vineyard's grape vines before he turned to head inside.

The storm did little damage to the vineyard's grape crop, simply because there wasn't much of a crop to begin with.

Late winter frosts hit grapes hard, leaving little fruit on the vine when the storm rolled through, Lougheed said.

"You can't lose what you don't have," he said.

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