ice storm

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Lansing Board of Water & Light has chosen a longtime city firefighter as its new emergency operations manager.

Trent Atkins is the city's assistant fire chief.

BWL was heavily criticized for its response to an ice storm last December. More than 40,000 BWL customers lost electricity in the wake of the Dec. 21 ice storm. Thousands spent 10 days or more waiting for the lights to come back on.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

By this time next year, state officials hope to be ready to move into a new $22 million center to manage Michigan’s future emergencies.   

Ground was broken yesterday for the new State Emergency Operations Center. The center will serve as a command center to coordinate various local, state and federal agencies at times of emergency.

The old center has been activated several times in the past 12 months to coordinate the state response to floods, ice storms, and other natural disasters.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing’s mayor may have real ‘power’ at his fingertips at times of emergency, if city voters agree in November.

Tens of thousands of Lansing Board of Water and Light customers spent days in the dark last December after a major ice storm.   The utility’s leadership was heavily criticized for a disorganized response to the black out. 

BWL’s response to the storm and its aftermath were the subject of reviews by a panel appointed by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, the state Public Service Commission and by the utility itself.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing residents will get some additional help next time a massive ice storm knocks out their electricity.

Last December, about 40,000 Lansing Board of Water and Light customers lost their power during a pre-Christmas ice storm. Thousands spent the holiday in the dark as utility crews tried to restore power.   

The heavy ice yanked the wiring out of about 1,000 homes and businesses. Homeowners had to track down electricians during the holidays to reconnect homes to electric meters before power could be restored. Many had to wait 11 to 12 days.

BWL's general manager issued a statement saying the utility has "already begun implementing many of the improvements recommended by the MPSC."
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State utility regulators are the latest to give Lansing’s city electric utility poor marks for how it handled a massive ice storm in December.

The Michigan Public Service Commission says the Lansing Board of Water & Light was not prepared for the Dec. 21 ice storm that knocked out power to about 40,000 BWL customers. Many customers had to wait 10 days or more to get their electricity restored.

The MPSC report echoes the findings of BWL’s own internal review and a panel appointed by Lansing’s mayor. Among other things, the MPSC says BWL needs to improve its tree trimming and communications programs. The public service commission does not regulate BWL, so its findings are little more than recommendations for change.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero asked for the state review. He says the three reports will provide a “road map” for BWL to be a more reliable energy provider.

BWL’s general manager issued a statement saying the utility has “already begun implementing many of the improvements recommended by the MPSC.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The brutal winter weather is taking a toll on Michigan retailers.

A major ice storm just before Christmas resulted in poor overall holiday season sales for many Michigan stores.

The brutally cold January that followed was just as bad, according to a new report by the Michigan Retailers Association, which says 46% of retailers report their sales were down last month, compared to January 2013. Only 30% said their cash registers were busier.

The gloom created by slow sales may carry over into the rest of the year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

An internal report finds a key communication system that failed during December’s ice storm had been malfunctioning for months before the storm.

The Lansing Board of Water and Light released the findings of an internal review of its response to the storm last night.  More than 35,000 BWL customers lost power, some for as long as 10 days.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The panel that oversees the Lansing Board of Water and Light this evening will review the findings of a "top-to-bottom" internal probe of the utility’s response to a devastating December ice storm.

The Dec. 22 ice storm knocked out electricity to more than 35,000 BWL customers. It took the utility more than a week to get the lights back on.

Customers complain the utility was slow to respond to the outage, and even slower to respond to their telephone calls.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Temperatures are expected to hit 40 degrees in the coming week in Michigan.

The warm up should begin to melt off some of the snow that has built up over the past few months.

But the melting snow is also expected to reveal mounds of fallen tree branches, discarded Christmas trees and garbage that has been entombed in mounds of snow and ice since December.

Paul Dykema is the assistant superintendent in the city of Lansing’s Public Service Department.  He says cleaning that mess up will take some time.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan wildlife is struggling this winter, just like the state’s human population.

State wildlife officials say the next few weeks will be critical for Michigan deer, pheasants, and other animals.

As the days grow longer, animals become more active. Their metabolisms pick up and they need to forage for more food.

But when the snow is several feet deep, and a layer of ice coats normal food sources, finding enough food can be a problem.

Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy and DTE are waiting to hear from electric utilities in the south and east that are bearing the brunt of a strong winter storm this week.

Tens of thousands of people in the Deep South have already lost power from the storm that is raining down large amounts of ice and snow in places that rarely see either.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The late December ice storm that knocked out power to more than half a million Michigan utility customers also damaged many of the state’s trees.

A preliminary study being released today takes a look at that damage.

Professor Frank Telewski was busy Monday, crunching numbers for his presentation today to a conference of state arborists.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Board of Water and Light officials are defending their heavily criticized response to last month’s major power outage.

BWL customers like Alice Dreger are livid over having to wait more than a week for their power to be turned back on.

"Let me tell you, when you have live wires down for nine to 12 days, safety is not job one,” Dreger told a packed meeting last night at BWL’s headquarters.

But a majority of those taking the podium praised the work of BWL employees. Most were BWL employees and officials, though a few were BWL customers.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

In the midst of the current weather crisis, Lansing utility officials plan to spend time tonight trying to figure out what went wrong during the last weather crisis in the capitol city.

Two weeks ago, an ice storm knocked out power to 40% of Lansing Board of Water and Light customers.

Many customers grew very angry as they waited for more than a week to get their electricity turned back on. That anger only grew worse when it was learned that the man in charge of the city’s utility left town during the outage to spend time with his family in New York.

Finally. 

The lights are back on, and the heat is warming the house, for the roughly 670,000 Consumers Energy and DTE customers who lost electricity from a severe ice storm.

"It was one of the worst storms in our history," says Debra Dodd of Consumers Energy.

Heavy ice brought down hundreds of lines, and in some cases, pulled the poles down with it.

Dodd says customers were patient, understanding and grateful to the line crews, who worked 16-hour days to repair the damage.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There are still an estimated 29,300 customers without power in Michigan today (Saturday) after a major ice storm last weekend. The lack of power and freezing temperatures are beginning to take their toll on many families.

Sara Scott, her husband and their three-year-old son have been staying at her in-laws since Monday. She says her husband is worried that the pipes are going to freeze or that someone’s going to break into their home in Lansing. Plus, she’s two months pregnant.

Judy Putnam

There are times when warm weather is not a good thing, and this is one such time.

Brian Wheeler is with Consumers Energy.  He says the severe ice storm that struck a big portion of the state early Sunday left extremely heavy ice on the trees.

"The ice has been pushing trees and tree limbs into different positions," says Wheeler.  "A rapid melt could cause them to snap back into a different position pretty quickly too, and as they move suddenly, they could interfere with power lines yet again."

Consumer's Energy

About 150 thousand Michigan utility customers have spent another cold day waiting for their electricity to be restored.    

Sunday’s ice storm left almost a half million Michigan homes and businesses without electricity. 

As of midday, approximately 125,000 Consumer’s Energy customers were still without electricity.  About 20,000 DTE Energy customers and 7,000 Lansing Board of Water & Light customers were still in the dark as well.

Debra Dodd is a Consumer’s Energy spokeswoman.  She says linemen are doing the best job they can in very cold conditions.

Christoper Sessums / Flickr

High winds are forecast for Wednesday.

And that could slow down the work to restore power to thousands of people after the weekend's severe ice storm.

The storm's path went through Lansing, Owosso and Flint.

Mary Palkovich is with Consumers Energy.

"This is the worst storm that Consumers Energy has had during Christmas week in its 120 year history," says Palkovich.  "It's unprecedented."

Have you forgotten about the snow already?
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Several hundred people across the state may be spending Christmas in an emergency shelter, after a severe ice storm on Saturday.

Dick Beauchamp is with the Red Cross in Genessee County.

The agency turned the second floor of its Flint office into a shelter.

About 50 people were there as of Tuesday morning.

Beauchamp said he expects more to show up.

Consumer's Energy

About 250,000 Michigan homes and businesses remain without power after a weekend ice storm that blacked out at least 482,000 homes and businesses and may have caused a Delta jetliner with 180 people on board to slide off a taxiway at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The wintry blast hit Saturday night. The utilities say it will be days before most power is restored because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.

DTE Energy says 56,000 of its affected 150,000 customers were off line.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It will be Saturday at least before electricity is restored to all the Michigan homes and businesses that lost power in Sunday’s ice storm.

The storm knocked out power to almost a half million Michiganders.  About 300,000 are still waiting for their electricity to be turned back on. 

Brian Wheeler is a Consumers Energy spokesman.  He says about a third of the nearly 200,000 Consumers Energy customers without electricity are in Flint and Genesee County

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATE 8:06pm

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Winter has arrived in Michigan with an icy blast, sending freezing rain across a wide section of the Lower Peninsula, knocking out electrical service to at least 382,000 homes and businesses and causing multiple crashes around the state.

The state's largest utilities say it will be days before most of those blacked out get their power back because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.