Offbeat

Offbeat

Lindsay Smith / Michigan Radio News

Ok, so we all know that this week's winter storm caused copious amounts of snow and ice to blanket much of the state. And, of course, we couldn't forget the school closings and sore backs (hey, shoveling a foot of snow out of a driveway is strenuous!).

But, what about the actual financial impact of a huge winter storm? Just how much money did all that snow cost the state? Hard to quantify? It sure would seem like it. But, one firm, IHS Global Insight, has decided to go ahead and try to figure the economics out.

In a report released this week titled, The Economic Costs of Disruption from a Snowstorm, IHS said the storm had a $251 million a day economic impact in Michigan. The study took into account both direct (think loss of income because of a missed day of work) and indirect effects (such as lost sales in the local economy) of the storm into account when figuring out the numbers.

Aside from the actual economic data, IHS also reached three conclusions about the financial impact of winter storms, and I quote:

  1. Among all economic classes, snow-related shutdowns harm hourly workers the worst, accounting for almost two thirds of direct economic losses.
  2. The indirect economic impacts of snow-related shutdowns, including loss of retail sales and income and sales tax revenues, roughly double the initial economic impact.
  3. The economic impact of snow-related closures far-exceeds the cost of timely snow removal. Although states and localities may be hesitant to expand significant upfront resources in the short-term, the long-term payoff more than justifies the expense.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The east side of the state may have been spared the brunt of the storm but in Grand Rapids the nearly 16 inches of snow in a 24-hour period could prove record setting

Chad Doty shovels a foot of snow off the sidewalk of a Big Boy in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s normally packed during lunch but today it’s closed. He’s been out shoveling for hours.

 “We tried to get out at like 1 o’clock (in the morning) but the weather was just too bad I couldn’t see the drive. So I had to pack it up, got back out at about 4 o’clock I think and just started the grind.”

Doty says he’ll work until early evening, take a nap, and head back out. He says the extra snow means extra cash for him. 

The busses are running, even though all universities, many schools and businesses are closed today.

Mayor George Heartwell refused to declare a snow emergency. City workers are working around the clock to clear the streets. He says all of them should be clear by Friday. Heartwell is asking those physically able to do so help clear snow away from fire hydrants, and keep cars off the streets if possible.

City leaders say they expect around 16 inches total. That’s nearly equal to the record set more than 20 year ago. 

Hal and Judy Fruit trek down a normally busy street in snow shoes they got for Christmas.

“It’s a good storm but I think they overblew it a little bit. It’s Michigan. It’s snow. It’s winter. No big deal. You know you live with it. Roads are clear. The sun is out. It’s beautiful!”

Just under 400 people in Kent County were without power, but are expected to be back online before the end of the day.

Abby deRoo

Looking at the photos... they don't really look like snowmen - more like snowbots, but I guess that's the kind of quality you can expect when the goal is quantity.

The cities of Zeeland, St. Clair and Saline took part in a snowman building contest over the weekend.

As Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported, the goal of the contest was to see who could build the most snowmen (at least 4ft. tall) in a 2 hour period with 50 volunteers.

The volunteers employed garbage cans, pickle buckets, and Pam cooking spray to help them churn the snow creatures out.

The city of Saline came out on top winning the soon-to-be coveted, wood-carved trophy known as "Frosty."

Here are the final tallies:

1st Place - Saline with 483 snowmen like creatures

2nd place - Zeeland with 268

3rd place - St. Clair with 113

St. Clair Downtown Development Director Dan Lockwood blamed their poor showing on "terrible packing snow."

The Grand Rapids Press has several photos of the contest as it took place in Zeeland.

You be the judge, do they need to tighten up their definition of a snowman? Or should snowbots count?

Dan Lockwood / St. Clair DDA

Zeeland, St. Clair, and Saline are competing this weekend to take home the "Snowman Building Champion of the Free World" trophy.

Art Trapp is Saline’s Downtown Development Director.

“In our community we don’t see a lot of activity downtown during the winter and we thought this was one way to get people off their couch.”

The other point of the competition is to see which community can build the most 4-foot-tall snowmen with 50 volunteers in 2 hours.

With the New Year, Michigan Radio began a new series called, "What's Working." Every week, we'll take a look at an idea that's helping to improve the state's economy and our lives.

Today, we hear from Joe Faris, founder of Motor City Denim. When the auto industry downsized, auto suppliers were affected. Many of them lost business, got rid of employees, or even went into bankruptcy. What’s left are the suppliers' factories, and a highly-skilled workforce. Faris is working to mold the infrastructure of former, or smaller, auto suppliers into one that can support a fashion industry. Motor City Denim is now a subsidiary of TD Industrial Coverings. TD Industrial Coverings used to only manufacture protective coverings for the robots used to assemble cars. Now, TD industrial is getting ready to also make jeans.

You can listen to the interview here:

LisaW123 / Flickr

If you're commuting this morning, expect slick roads across the state. This morning we'll see a mix of rain, freezing rain and sleet.  A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 11 a.m. today for much of west and mid-Michigan and until noon for parts of the southeast.

Today: Snow in west Michigan. Snow mixed with sleet and freezing rain in mid and southeast Michigan. Highs in the low to mid 30s.

Tonight: Cloudy, a slight chance of snow in Holland and southeast Michigan. Lows between zero and 10 degrees.

Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy with a bit of sun in southeast Michigan. Scattered light snow in west and mid-michigan. Highs around 20.

All throughout 2010, Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley asked people for their ideas on what we can all do to help our state. This year, she'll find out What's Working. Every week, we'll explore a new idea that's working to improve the state's economy and our lives. The series is called, "What's Working."

Today, we heard from Kim Hodge, Executive Director of MI Alliance of TimeBanks, about the rising popularity of time-banking in the state. So, maybe you're wondering just what time-banking is. The Alliance's website explains it like this:

At its most basic level, Time banking is simply about spending an hour doing something for somebody in your community. That hour goes into the Time Bank as a Time Dollar. Then you have a Time dollar to spend on having someone doing something for you. It’s a simple idea, but it has powerful ripple effects in building community connections.

Each Time Bank has a website where you list what you would like to do for other members. You look up Time Bank services online or call a community coordinator to do it for you. You earn Time Dollars after each service you perform and then you get to spend it on whatever you want from the listings.

With Time Banking, you will be working with a small group of committed individuals who are joined together for a common good. It connects you to the best in people because it creates a system that connects unmet needs with untapped resources. To see what happens each week when you are part of Time Bank is deeply fulfilling, especially if you are helping to make it run.

carey2.blogspot.com

Jackson County Commissioners are considering tough new regulations for owners of dogs that attack.

James Shotwell is chairman of the commission. He says a judge will determine whether a dog owner will have to get one hundred thousand dollars of liability coverage for the animal.

"The language is something that is established by the courts, after the person is cited with the animal repeatedly," Shotwell says.  "So it’s not like everyone who has a pit bull or has a vicious dog has to have liability insurance. That’s not what we’re saying.”

Ripley's Believe It or Not

Don't throw it out! Put that dryer lint in a box next to the crayons, markers, and pencils. Turns out, it can be used to make art.

The Associated Press has a report on Laura Bell's laundry lint creation... a 14'x4' replica of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper." Bell is from Roscommon, Michigan.

From the report:

Bell says she needed about 800 hours to do enough laundry to get the lint, and 200 hours to recreate the mural. She bought towels of the colors she wanted and laundered them separately to get the right shades of lint.

The report says Ripley's Believe It or Not plans to display the piece in one of its museums, adding to other "Last Supper" replicas "made from a grain of rice, a dime and burned toast."

On the Ripley's website, Laura Bells says people have different reactions when seeing the piece:

“For some people, it’s a very spiritual experience. Others are simply amazed at what someone could do with basic laundry lint.”

T.Shirbert / Flickr

All throughout 2010, Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley asked people for their ideas on what we can all do to help our state.  This year, she'll find out What's Working.  Every week, we'll explore a new idea that's working to improve the state's economy and our lives. The series is called, "What's Working."

To begin the series, Shockley sat down with Scott MacInnes, the City Manager of Houghton, Michigan. Houghton is located on the Keweenaw Peninsula, the northernmost extension of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Mr. MacInnes is also a member of the Winter Cities Institute, an international organization that seeks to make northern cities and towns more livable during the long winter months.

Jmenard48 / Flickr

Forecasters are predicting snow will continue to fall across the state today with West and Mid Michigan seeing the most accumulation.

A Lake Effect Snow Warning is in effect for West Michigan and a Lake Effect Snow Advisory is in effect for Mid Michigan.  Both the warning and advisory will remain until early tomorrow morning.

Today: West Michigan could see 2-4 inches; Mid Michigan 1-3 inches and just an inch or two is expected in the Southeast.  Temperatures will reach the low 20s today.

Tonight: West Michigan could see another 2-4 inches of snow; across the rest of the state an inch or less is expected.  Lows overnight will be in the low to mid teens.

Tomorrow: More snow for the Holland area with about 2-3 more inches expected. Otherwise, scattered snow showers with light accumulations possible.  Highs in the low to mid 20's.

Sami / Flickr

Weather forecasters are predicting quite a bit of snow will fall throughout the state today, tonight and tomorrow.

Today: snow is likely across the state.  West and Mid Michigan could see up to three inches of snow by the end of the day; the Southeast is likely to get around an inch.

Tonight: the snow continues. Parts of the state around Holland and Kalamazoo could see an addition 2 to 5 inches of snow.  Mid Michigan could get another 1 to 3 inches and the Southeast will see occasional snow showers with additional accumulations of around an inch.

Tomorrow: more snow. West Michigan could see another 2-5 inches.  Another 2-4 inches is expected in parts of Mid Michigan and the Southeast is predicted to get another 1-2 inches.

Meanwhile, a lake effect snow advisory will go into effect this afternoon through tomorrow for parts of West and Mid Michigan.

screen grab of YouTube video

Columbus Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III says he filmed Ted Williams on a whim.

"We run into these guys at the exit ramps and we pretty much ignore them," said Chenoweth, who was en route with his wife to the grocery store when he first saw Williams. "This guy was using his talent."

Ted Williams was standing on a street corner near a highway exit ramp in Columbus, Ohio holding a sign that said "I have a God-given gift of voice. I am an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please any help will be greatfully (sic) appreciated..."

And when you hear his voice, it's uncanny. It sounds as if you've just stepped into a commercial radio or television broadcast. It almost sounds fake. Listen for yourself:

"Feel the Zeel" onesies
Gary Brower / The Holland Sentinel

A few years ago, Zeeland changed its slogan from “People, Product, Progress” to “Feel the Zeel”. The hope was to re-brand the small community; highlight its strengths in design and innovation, schools, and quality of life.

Golfer teeing off
flickr user - easywebsitesky

When most people hit the links with their buddies, they don't anticipate getting sued for their shanks.

I guess it is America, so you can sue for just about anything. But it doesn't mean you'll win.

The New York Court of Appeals struck down an unfortunate case between two Doctors.

Photo by Zieak/Flickr

An anonymous donor put a  gold coin worth an estimated $1,400 into a Salvation Army worker's red kettle in northern Michigan.

The Associated Press reports:

Maj. Craig Stoker of the Salvation Army in Alpena tells The Alpena News that he received a call about 9 a.m. Saturday from a man who said he wanted to give something special to bell ringer Jackalyn Skiba. Stoker said the man declined to disclose the nature of the gift or why he had singled Skiba out... the money will be put into the Christmas fund, which to date has collected $129,000. This year's goal was $159,000.

The coin is reportedly in good condition.

West Michigan Elves and More bike giveaway
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Christmas came early for hundreds of kids in one Grand Rapids neighborhood this weekend. West Michigan Elves and More is a non-profit that gives away bikes and other gifts to a different neighborhood each year.

Dozens of kids watch Grand Rapids Police escort three semis down a snow covered residential street. The trailers contain a little more than one-thousand brand new bikes for kids in the Belknap Lookout neighborhood.

Jack Abramoff testifying at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee Hearing
U.S. Senate

Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who bilked millions from several Indian tribes including Michigan's Saginaw Chippewas, has officially been released from the Federal Bureau of Prisons

The Associated Press reports Abramoff spent the last several months of his four-year prison sentence on home confinement with an electronic monitoring bracelet. The halfway house he was assigned to set Abramoff up with a job at a kosher pizzeria in Baltimore.

The AP reports that Abramoff worked at Tov Pizza, "a modest kosher pizzeria in a heavily Jewish section of northwest Baltimore. Abramoff, 51, is an Orthodox Jew and wore a yarmulke to work."

Library books
Let Ideas Compete/Flickr

Two public libraries in Michigan will be honored Friday at the White House. Peter White Public Library in Marquette and West Bloomfield Township Public Library will be awarded the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

First Lady Michelle Obama will present the awards. As the Associated Press explains, "winners are chosen based on their innovative approaches to public service and improving communities.

Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Supreme Court / court.mi.gov

The Associated Press reports "the Michigan Supreme Court, in a 4-3 order, has refused to throw out Sheri Schooley's lawsuit against Texas Roadhouse in suburban Detroit."

Schooley sued the restaurant after a mishap with a toilet paper dispenser.  Schooley said she was injured in the restroom at the Texas Roadhouse.

A stack of The New Yorker magazines
Tsmall/Flickr

If you're a habitual reader of The New Yorker magazine or you just browse the latest issue's cartoons then you may have noticed a recent cartoon that made you think of home... home that is, if you live in the Ann Arbor or metro-Detroit areas.

As AnnArbor.com puts it:

Without spoiling the joke, we'll just say the cartoon — by Ann Arbor's Dave Coverly — makes reference to shopping malls — and specifically, several we're very familiar with, including Briarwood Mall, Westgate Plaza and Jackson Plaza. Troy's Somerset Mall and Oakland Mall also get a shout-out.

You can see the cartoon at The New Yorker's website.

Volunteers serve Thanksgiving at DeVos Place
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

More than 600 volunteers served people in need a hot Thanksgiving meal today in Grand Rapids. Thousands of homeless, elderly, sick and downtrodden came for the feast.

RMS Titanic at the docks
author unknown / creative commons

Chris Knape has a piece in the Grand Rapids Press about hedge fund manager and bar owner, Mark Sellers.

Sellers moved back to Grand Rapids around three years ago where he owns the bars Hopcat, Stella’s Lounge and Viceroy.

Clock
Photo by Evil Saltine/Creative Commons

It's that time of year again... time to turn back the clocks.  We'll gain an hour this Sunday, November 7th when we change back to Standard Time at 2 a.m.  Dayight Saving Time officially returns on the second Sunday in March when we jump forward an hour. 

Eric Fischer

By using U.S. Census data, Eric Fischer has created a map that shows the racial integration of Detroit.  As Gawker.com explains, "one dot equals 25 people. The dots are then color-coded based on race: White is pink; Black is blue; Hispanic is orange, and Asian is green."   You can find the racial integration of other large U.S. cities here.

Hearses in Hell

Sep 16, 2010
Chris Chan

The Associated Press reports, 

A Hell-based car club will try to set a world record for the longest procession of hearses.  Just Hearse'N Around will try to set a new Guinness World records mark... Saturday.  Club member Steve Frey says to qualify for the record, each of the expected 50-plus hearses must be driven in procession for just over two miles.

A cricket in Tanzania
Philip / Creative Commons

Some of us have accidentally made a meal of a bug while riding a bike or going on a boat ride.

But there are some people who say by not eating bugs on purpose, we're ignoring an entire food group.

The Wall Street Journal has the latest on entomophagy, or bug eating.

I think it's what sushi was 20 or 30 years ago. Now it's time for bugs.

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