weather

Update: Ice storms knock out power to 294,000 in Michigan

Dec 22, 2013
weather.gov

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Winter has arrived in Michigan with an icy blast, sending freezing rain across a wide section of the Lower Peninsula and knocking out electrical service to 294,000 homes and businesses.

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.

NWS

Cold temperatures and snow were expected in Michigan into next week. The lowest readings Friday morning were in the Upper Peninsula, including zero degrees in Ironwood and 1 degree in Iron Mountain.

Forecasters said lake-effect snow was possible in the U.P. and parts of western Michigan. Snow and freezing rain could make travel difficult.

Gale warnings were in effect Friday for Lake Superior, with waves expected to be 18 feet to as high as 27 feet.

NWS

IRONWOOD, Mich. (AP) — Cold temperatures are expected across Michigan after an arctic blast swept across the Northern Plains and made its way east.

In Michigan's western Upper Peninsula, temperatures in the teens were reported Thursday morning in Ironwood. In much of the rest of the state, temperatures were in the 30s to 50s, but they were expected to be in the 30s or below by Thursday evening.

A mix of snow and freezing rain is expected in places, making travel difficult. Cold weather is to continue through the weekend.

Gale warnings are in effect Thursday for Lake Superior and parts of northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, with high waves expected. In Lake Superior, the National Weather Service says waves of 18 feet are likely with maximum heights of up to 26 feet.

Driverless cars might just be a futurist's dream-no longer. The University of Michigan has announced its plans to bring a fleet of networked, driverless cars to Ann Arbor by the year 2021. We have the details on today's show.

And the temperatures are falling and parts of Michigan have snow on the ground. We asked if winter has already arrived.

Also, the Farm Bill passed last January took an important subsidy away from organic farmers. What does the loss of this subsidy mean to organic farmers in Michigan? And does a farm have to go through the trouble and expense of getting certified to be organic?

First on the show, it's been less than a week since voters in three very different Michigan cities all approved ballot initiatives allowing small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property.

And that has pro-marijuana advocates hoping those votes will boost pressure on state lawmakers to legalize or decriminalize pot.

Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing correspondent Jake Neher joined us today to give an overview of what efforts are underway.

Twitter

Time for a little "Told ya so!" from MLive Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa. Back on Halloween, he predicted a very early dose of lake-effect snow and  temps that feel more like Christmas than mid-November.

And, looking at the weather around the state for this November 11th, it does seem that he called it.

Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

user Cseeman / Flickr

As I grabbed my gloves and heavy coat this morning, I noted that the thermometer was 33. Just ten days ago, it was 79 degrees. That’s Michigan's weather for you — always keeping us on our toes.

With talk of snowflakes in Flint and friends in Northern Michigan grumbling on Facebook about predictions of snow on October 22, we wondered: Is Michigan facing an early winter?

Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joins us to discuss what’s ahead for Michigan weather.

Listen to the full interview above.

User: Caneles / Flickr

It sounds like the plot of an apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster:  the poles on the Sun are flipping.

But why is this polar flip happening? And, what does changing polarity mean for us Earthlings? We talk to MLive Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa about the sun's latest flip-flop. 

user tami.vroma / Flickr

The end of summer is at hand and we wanted to find out how the year treated Michigan farmers so far.

They were slammed in 2012 by a cold, wet spring and a hot, dry summer.

Earlier this summer we spoke with Macomb Township farmer Ken DeCock to see how things were going for him and got mixed reviews. So we wanted to check in with him to get an end-of-summer view.

He joined us today from Boyka's Farm Market in Macomb Township. Tree fruit specialist William Shane with the Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center also joined us.

Listen to the full interview above.

It's getting close to back-to-school time. So today, we took a look at teachers -- in particular, teacher turnover, and what it can do a student's academic achievement. Teachers leaving their profession costs the nation billions of dollars each year. We ask what can be done to keep teachers teaching.

And, there have been some complaints about the cooler, rainier summer we've been having, but it turns out it's been good for our Great Lakes. Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today to tell us why.

Also, the historic Packard Plant in Detroit may be converted into a commercial, housing and entertainment complex, but is this feasible?

First on the show, it's Thursday, which means it's time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

And today he's got his eye fixed on the storm clouds that are gathering for the Detroit Institute of Arts. This particular growing cloud comes from Oakland County. 

Daniel Howes joined us today to talk about the troubles the DIA faces.

NOAA

There has been a healthy degree of grousing this year by lovers of hot weather.

We had a cool and rainy spring, and certainly this summer has not been a replay of last year's hot, dry season.

But here's something to think about: the cooler, wetter weather is "good medicine" for our Great Lakes and those all-important water levels.

MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today to talk about why.

Listen to the full interview above.

Twitter

Where were you ten years ago when the power died?

That's what many of us in the Midwest are asking each other today.

It was ten years ago this day when the largest blackout in North America left 55 million people in 8 states and Canada in the dark.

The cost of the Blackout of 2003? Anywhere from $4-10 billion.

What changes have been made to the grid in that decade? Could a blackout like that happen again?

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a science columnist for the New York Times Magazine, the science editor at BoingBoing.net, and the author of "Before the Lights Go Out."

She joined us today from Minneapolis. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Wikipedia

Today is the ten-year anniversary of the Northeast blackout of 2003.

On August 14, 2003 at 4:10 pm, eight U.S. states and parts of Ontario lost power. 

In Cleveland, Ohio, an overgrown tree branch touched a sagging, overloaded power line. The line short-circuited and, well, you know how it ended. 

It was one of the biggest power outages that the U.S. ever saw. At first, people were worried it was an act of terrorism, but when the blackout was confirmed as merely a power outage, the mood shifted.

Much of southeastern Michigan was affected (about 2.3 million households were without power). The cities of Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Detroit were victims of the blackout. Some areas, such as Brighton and Holly, were in geographical pockets where residents had power.

Water supplies in Detroit were disrupted because the city used electronic pumps. All water in the Metro Detroit area was required to be boiled until August 18 to ensure potability. 

Here at Michigan Radio, our back-up battery only lasted so long, so we scrambled to find a generator to keep us on-air (see a few photos above).

We asked our Facebook fans to chime in with their experiences. Here's a snippet:

There are calls in Lansing to overhaul Michigan’s parole system. Advocates say the state keeps people in prison far longer than necessary.

And, we went back in time to explore how a Michigan company fed the nation's craze for sending postcards.

Also, we spoke with meteorologist Mark Torregrossa about improvements in weather forecasting technology.

First on the show, Detroit voters have spoken. Well, at least the 15% or so who voted in Tuesday's primary.

And, it will be Mike Duggan versus Benny Napoleon in the race for Mayor. We'll talk with our political commentator Jack Lessenberry to get his take on the primary results. But first, let's talk with the candidates.

We were joined today by the top vote-getter in yesterday's mayoral primary, a candidate whose name wasn't even on the ballot, Mike Duggan.

Twitter

Have you heard the rueful little wisecrack about Michigan's weather forecasters?

Something like, "they're wrong just enough that you don't take them seriously and they're right just enough that you need to take them seriously."

Well, the weather forecasters in Michigan will soon be able to give us forecasts that are twice as accurate.

Mark Torregrossa got his degree in meteorology from Northern Illinois University and he's been forecasting Michigan's weather for more than two decades. His weather website, farmerweather.com specializes in weather information for farmers and agriculture.

Torregrossa joined us today to discuss forecasting technology.

Listen to the full interview above.

bucklava / flickr

The weather has been really nice lately –maybe a little cool at night- but this is July, people. What happened to the dog days of summer? One week of hot weather and then fall?

It’s time for an expert to weigh in, and that’s why we called MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa. He joined us today to talk about the unseasonably cool weather. Listen to the full interview above.

Still not sure what the Affordable Care Act means or what it does or doesn’t do? You’re not alone. Politics aside, we took a closer look at Obamacare and what it all means for you.

And, the unseasonable cool weather in Michigan is probably good for you, but not so good for the crops. Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa joined us today to talk about what is causing it.

And, a Detroit native joined us today to tell us how he sees the city's bankruptcy as a new opportunity.

Also, the fourth annual Upper Peninsula book tour is about to begin. We spoke with a couple Michigan authors who will be participating.

First on the show, by now you’ve heard a bit about Detroit’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing. About half of Detroit’s nearly $20 billion in debt is due to shortfalls in the funds for retiree benefits. According to emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s estimates, the pension funds are behind by about $3.5 billion. Unfunded health care obligations are pegged at about $5.7 billion.

Detroit is not unique in its unfunded pension and retiree health care obligations. Other municipalities in the state are also behind.

Anthony Minghine is the chief operating officer of Michigan municipal league.  He joined us today.

Tony Brown

Right on cue, the Ann Arbor Art Fairs opened during the hottest week we’ve had yet this summer.

According to the National Weather Service, an excessive heat warning is in effect this afternoon through Friday, with heat index values of 105 degrees in southeast Michigan today.

Flickr

No matter where you go in Michigan this week, it seems the hot weather is a prime topic of conversation.

When you pop your head out of the door first thing in the morning and it's already 83 degrees and there's nowhere to go but up, that is some hot weather.

We wondered how this week fit into Michigan's "hot weather history," so we turned to MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa. He also has the website farmerweather.com which will give you everything you want to know about the weather.

Listen to the full interview above.

Jane Doughnut / Creative Commons

This has certainly been a wet and muggy summer.

Michigan farmers endured a hot and dry summer in 2012, so we wondered what the soggy summer of 2013 is doing to crops and to farmers. Is it better than the scorcher of 2012?

Ken DeCock is a third-generation farmer in Macomb Township where his family owns Boyka's Farm Market. He joined us today to give us the farmer's-eye view of our weather.

Listen to the full interview above.

Flooding in Ann Arbor after last night's rain.
user gerbsumich / Twitter

Southeast Michigan was hit with torrential downpours last night and social media was abuzz with photos and videos.

In Ann Arbor, the city turned into a bit of a water park:

Other people water skiied behind cars.

Roads basically turned into rivers for a time:

@smartinWNTV
Susie Martin Wx / Twitter

The Associated Press reports that a derecho could create several storms in the Midwest with wind gusts reaching close to 100 mph:

The National Weather Service says derechos occur once or twice a year in the central U.S. with winds of at least 75 mph. The storms maintain their intensity for hours as they sweep across vast distances, and can trigger tornadoes and large hail.

Meteorologists project possible derechos in Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh metro areas.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This post was updated as we learned news related to the rising waters in West and mid-Michigan. To see how events unfolded from Friday through Sunday night, scroll down and read up.

To read about current news related to the flooding, see this new post.

Sunday, April 21st, 9:30 p.m.

At nearly 22 feet, Michigan’s longest river is very near where the National Weather Service is predicting it will crest in Grand Rapids. The Grand River’s flood stage there is 18 feet.

City officials were confident the waste water treatment plant (that serves around a dozen other neighboring communities) will make it through the night, thanks in part to a massive sandbag wall lining the perimeter.

Over the weekend the city moved around $3 million dollars in equipment that’s not needed for the emergency to drier locations, just in case.

The flooding means the plant is processing more than triple the usual amount of water. Over the last three days, the city says the plant has treated 150 million gallons of water a day, compared to an average of 42 million gallons a day.

People are still being asked to conserve water; take shorter showers, hold off on washing laundry and dishes.

“We expect to be safe through the night,” the city’s Environmental Services Manager Mike Lunn said in a written statement.

“The combined performance of our flood walls, our pumps, professional staff, and volunteers has been truly amazing. We must, however, continue to be diligent in monitoring the situation,” Lunn said.

The city is no longer calling on people to help fill and move sandbags, for now.

“I can’t possibly imagine what else we could do to react to this situation,” Mayor George Heartwell said, “We realize that things could change dramatically in the next few days with more rain or if issues associated with structures – such as buildings, walls, or bridges - arise.”

The crest will head to Grandville soon, where the city library is now taking on some water in the basement.

In Lowell, upstream from Grand Rapids, the water is already beginning to recede. There’s been very limited access into the city, with a number of bridges closed. But the barricades are predicted to move off Main Street before the Monday morning commute.

Sunday 4:30 p.m.

Electricity is being rerouted in Grand Rapids because of the flooded Grand River.

Officials from Consumers Energy said Sunday there are four high voltage distribution lines that run just under the Fulton Street bridge.

The water is high enough there's a concern that big trees or other debris floating down the river could snag the lines and cause safety concerns so they’ve de-energeized the lines. Electrical services have not been impacted because of the move.

Once the river recedes they’ll reopen the bridge. But officials couldn’t estimate how long that will be.

The Grand River is expected to crest Monday around 2 a.m. at 22.3 feet.

At a press conference Sunday afternoon Mayor George Heartwell thanked the hundreds of volunteers who’ve been filling and stockpiling 6,000 sandbags an hour over the weekend. He called for more volunteers this afternoon and evening.

“Even though we’re the most incredible volunteering city in the world, we need more,” Heartwell said, “Please help us protect our city.”

City-owned buildings have already been lined with the bags. So the 50,000 that remain are primarily for residents and business owners who need then, “or the possibility that the skies open up again this week, we get a ton of rain and we get a resurgence of these levels.”

Rain is in the forecast as early as Tuesday.

Michigan’s second largest city remains under a state of emergency because of significant property damage to a number of buildings in the downtown area.

It’s estimated that around a thousand residents in mid and west Michigan have been evacuated from their homes. Some have already been able to return.

Sunday 11:10 a.m.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Snyder wants to lower auto insurance rates

Governor Rick Snyder is asking lawmakers to make changes to Michigan's no-fault auto insurance system. The Governor says Michigan has the highest insurance rates in the Midwest and have the eighth highest rate in the county.

"Right now, people critically injured in an auto accident can receive unlimited lifetime medical benefits. Under a plan announced yesterday, that amount would be capped at $1 million dollars," Jake Neher reports.

Michigan House approves bill against indefinite detention

"The Michigan House has approved legislation that would prohibit state and local law enforcement officials from helping the federal government indefinitely detain American citizens without charges," the Associated Press reports.

Weather update

More flooding and a return to wintry weather in places are being seen as spring storms prompt evacuations in parts of Michigan. More rain is expected today. We might even get some snow this afternoon in West, Mid Michigan and Flint. The Grand River in Grand Rapids is expected to crest on Sunday, just inches below the 100-year flood level.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Storms moved across Michigan this afternoon causing major flooding. Tornado watches are over. We updated this post today as we learned more. Scroll down and read up to see how the day unfolded.

Update 4:30 p.m.

We reported earlier in this post that the city of Chicago reversed the flow of the Chicago River to relieve flooding in upstream areas.

Major flooding in the Chicago Metro region has been identified as a pathway for Asian carp to get into the Great Lakes. Adam Allington explained this concern in a series he did for the Environment Report last year.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller looked into that concern and reports:

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says crews are stationed along the 13-mile physical and electronic barrier along the Des Plaines River, which is experiencing record flooding. Felicia Kirksey no carp have been spotted so far, and that the Corps is confident electronic pulses will continue to deter the invasive fish. More rain is expected in that region tonight, but will taper off tomorrow.

She'll have more for us in a separate post.

3:25 p.m.

You can check the forecast for the river near you on the NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service page. Click the dot nearest you and then click the "upstream gauge" or "downstream gauge" links to find the forecast nearest your area.

user thebridge / Michigan Radio

Why is it so cold this spring?

Jeff Masters, PhD, Director of Meterology at Weather Underground, tried to shed some light on our slow seasons.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan in for snow, sleet and rain today

"Snow, sleet and freezing rain are expected across the region today as part of a strong winter storm bearing down on the nation's midsection. It's expected to fall this afternoon and evening, and into tomorrow. More than 6 inches could fall in some places, including southeast Michigan. West Michigan could get 2 to 6 inches," the Associated Press reports.

Lawmakers talk roads funding

"State business leaders say Michigan lawmakers need to boost funding for roads now. The group says the cost of fixing roads only gets higher as time passes and roads get worse. The group says lawmakers should raise the state’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees to boost road funding," Jake Neher reports.

Mike Duggan to announce run for Detroit mayor

The former Detroit Medical Center CEO, Mike Duggan is announcing his run for Detroit mayor today. As the Detroit News reports,

"In an interview Monday, [Duggan] said his candidacy will be defined by the critical need for a strategy to fight violent crime and the case to limit (if not prevent) the tenure of an emergency manager in a long overdue turnaround of the city."

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Police say they're dealing with dozens of weather-related vehicle crashes around the state as a major storm hitting the Midwest brings snow to Michigan.

In Lansing, police say Friday morning they've responded to 12 traffic accidents and eight requests for assistance from motorists. Police say all appear to be weather-related.

In West Michigan, The Holland Sentinel reports a semi crashed in Holland and an ambulance en route to a call became briefly stuck in the snow in Allegan County.

MLive.com reports about a dozen minor crashes in Saginaw County on Friday morning. Other crashes happened in Midland County.

Fresh snow and icy roads made driving treacherous. Plows are on the road across the state. And some flights were delayed or canceled due to weather.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Snow blankets most of the state

Most of the Lower Peninsula is blanketed in snow as an overnight storm brought up to 9 inches in some areas, creating a potentially treacherous morning commute and causing many school districts to cancel classes. 

Three to 7 inches of snow are expected in parts of mid and West Michigan, according to the Detroit Free Press. Areas of Southeast Michigan received up to 5 inches of snow. Parts of the northern Lower Peninsula could get up to 9 inches. 

Snow is expected to continue throughout the morning, and it should taper off by around noon, the paper reported. 

Gov. Snyder releases budget proposal

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder released his annual budget proposal Thursday morning. 

"Sixty-one percent of the total investments we’re recommending are either for savings or education. This is a responsible budget. This is a budget to look to that long term, and learn from our past mistakes," Snyder said in his announcement. 

Among his priorities were increasing taxes to help pay for upkeep of the state's roads. Snyder proposed raising the gas tax to 33 cents a gallon for all types of fuel. He also wants to raise vehicle registration fees. 

Michigan Radio's Mark Brush has a run down of Snyder's other budget priorities, which include increasing funding for all levels of education and expanding medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. 

Detroit charter school teachers vote to unionize

Teachers at Detroit's largest charter school voted overwhelmingly last night to be represented by a union. 

The teachers and staff at Cesar Chavez academy voted by a 2-1 margin to have the American Federation of Teachers represent them, Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports. 

Only a small number of Michigan’s charter schools have unionized employees.

Nate Walker is with the AFT. He expects teachers in some other Michigan charter schools will also unionize this year.

“I think in the future we can certainly expect more collective bargaining campaigns,” says Walker,  “But we can also expect charter school teachers to engage in the policy discussions that impact them.”

- Joseph Lichterman, Michigan Radio Newsroom

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Gov. Snyder releases his numbers today

At 11 a.m., Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to unveil his budget to the state Legislature. It'll then be up to those representatives to wrestle with the numbers and come up with a final budget for the state. Among the things he's expected to call for:

  • After years of cuts, he'll call for a 2 percent increase in public education funding
  • More funding for road construction
  • And an expansion of Medicaid

More details emerge on I-75 crash, trooper saves one girl

More details came out yesterday on the deadly pileup on I-75 near Detroit the morning of Jan. 31.

A whiteout caused 12 crashes involving 43 cars on the Interstate. There were 12 injuries and 3 fatalities.

This morning, the Detroit News has more on Michigan State Trooper Seth Swanson's actions:

After failing to find a pulse on the first two children, Swanson went to the other side of the car, broke out the rear window with a hammer and reached in to see if the third child, a 10-year-old girl, was still alive. She had a faint pulse.

He cleared her airway and administered rescue breaths until she finally took a deep breath and regained consciousness.

And more snow is on the way, so drive carefully

Snow is expected for the entire state starting this evening. The middle of the state is expected to get the most snowfall. From the National Weather Service:

This system has the potential to generate heavy snowfall. 7 to 11 inches is expected north of M 46 and near Lake Huron, while 3 to 8 inches is possible for areas across the rest of Southeast Lower Michigan.

Mark Torregrossa from MLive says computer models for storms like this can predict higher snowfalls. His prediction is 4 to 9 inches for the middle of the state, and 1 to 4 inches for the rest of the state.

Ingham County

U.S. 23 was shut down in both directions just south of Flint after a multi-vehicle accident was caused by a snow squall. At least 20 vehicles were involved. The Detroit News reports traffic is back up and running on northbound 23 :

A dispatcher at the Flint post of the Michigan State Police said traffic was moving again on northbound U.S. 23 as of 2 p.m., and that southbound would be reopened as soon as several cars were towed from the roadway.

Crews from the Genesee County Road Commission were also called in to erect barricades to move traffic away from the area.

And WOOD-TV reports that weather conditions caused a shut down on I-94 westbound near Paw Paw, Michigan just before 2 p.m. when two semi-trucks collided.

The National Weather Service reports that snow is expected to continue to fall across much of the state into tomorrow.

As a strong cold front moves offshore over the Atlantic, the cold air behind it will help produce lake effect snow across the Great Lakes region on Thursday and Friday. As much as 5-10 inches of lake effect snow is possible through Thursday night, with additional accumulation expected on Friday. In addition, temperatures 20-40 degrees below normal are forecast for the Upper Midwest.

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