About Me

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Cedar, Leelanau County, Michigan (near Traverse City), United States
I am a 76 year old (born 7/4/1937) retired Public Radio Engineer from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. Happily married to the love of my life, Teddy (nee Teddy Schlueter). Teddy is a retired Medical Records Clerk from Theda Clark Hospital in Neenah, Wisconsin. Two children, Michael and Lon. Lon passed away in 1994. Michael is married to his wonderful wife, Toni and lives in Appleton, Wisconsin. For photos click on link below or visit our photo site http://www.flickr.com/photos/igboo NOTE: Click on photos for full-size images.

Friday, March 09, 2012

"The Weather Outside Was Frightful"

Following our decision to leave the open road and no longer Fulltime, we were braced for our first northern winter in six years. Surprisingly though, we were blessed with one of the mildest winters in history, that is, up to now. Evidently mother nature came to realize that she hadn't  been paying attention to us here in Leelanau County, Michigan so last Friday, March 2, she blessed the entire northwestern Lake Michigan shoreline with one of the heaviest snowfalls in history. 
The TV weatherman had warned that there was to be a snowfall that evening so we weren't particularly alarmed as the snow began to fall early in the evening. However around nine-thirty PM we began to get momentary power interruptions and about twenty minutes later we suddenly went dark. We lifted the shades and peered out into the darkness but couldn't see much other than the fact that it was snowing. So what did we do?...well, we went to bed, confident that power would probably be restored by morning...WRONG! 

The next morning, Saturday, March 3 there was still no power and daylight revealed an amazing sight of trees and branches bent to the ground, laden with wet heavy snow. Actually it was a beautiful sight to see all of the evergreen trees with snow on their branches

Here and there broken branches littered our yard and an adjacent wooded area. Teddy had left our only battery powered radio at the thrift shop where she volunteers so we had no idea of how widespread the power outage was until we phoned Teddy's sister, Deb Lawrence. Deb told us that there was a widespread power outage covering approximately eleven counties and not counting us there were some 199,999 homes without power or 200,000 including us.
Fortunately we have this portable 2500 watt generator that we used while RVing, so after a breakfast of cold cereal and coffee heated with a Bernzomatic propane hand torch we retrieved the generator from my basement workshop and carried it to the front porch. Teddy shoveled a path through waist deep snow to the garage to retrieve a five gallon can of garden tractor gasoline, while I fabricated a reverse engineered connection cable to connect the generator to the house through a porch electrical outlet. We gassed up the generator, I shut off the main circuit breaker so that I wouldn't back feed into the power grid, the generator started on the second pull and "Bob's Your Uncle".
We now had enough power to run the furnace, refrigerator/freezer, internet modem, radio and some limited lighting. 

It wasn't until we listened to the radio that we realized the scope of the event. There was widespread devastation everywhere with snow choked roads and downed trees & power lines. 
Sometime Saturday afternoon a plow was able to clear a single track on our road despite having to clear fallen trees every quarter mile or so. We were prepared to be without power for several days but fortunately we were on one of the first power trunks that was restored and late Sunday afternoon our power came back on. 

By that time both lanes of our road were plowed and our friend and contractor, Gerrard Belanger had plowed our driveway to the garage so that we could get our car out.

Gerrard has a huge 6x6 5 ton military surplus truck similar to this that he put a PU bed on and outfitted it with a plow to use for his snowplowing business. He has been putting in 16 hour days since the storm started.

Monday afternoon we took a short drive to look at the damaged cherry orchards. Most of the local orchards have a lot of trees that are lost due to the splitting of trunks and branches.

Now, exactly one week later, there are still several thousand people without power in the eleven county area.
There are at least four different power companies that I know of that still have customers without power. They are Cherryland Electric (our provider), Great Lakes Energy, Traverse City Light & Power, and Consumers Energy. Current predictions are for most people to have power by next Monday with the possible exceptions of those that lost their individual drop. In fact our drywall finisher, Steve Stowe told me today that a tree fell on his line and tore the vertical pipe that anchors the power line off of his house so he will most likely be one of the last people to be restored.

Another aspect for us is that the work on our bathroom remodeling has come to a sudden halt. The house is a mess with construction tools and lumber scattered about and the new powder room is our only working bathroom.

Not to complain though as we can be thankful that after the snow melts we will still have our homes, unlike those poor folks in southern Indiania that were struck by a tornado several days ago.

UPDATE Friday morning March 9, 9:30am EST

At 9am this morning we again lost power and are once again running my little Yamaha generator. So apparently we aren't out of the woods yet. Don't know how widespread this second outage is but neighbors a mile down the road report that they too are out. Oh well...at least we have each other.  

UPDATE Friday morning March 9, 12:00 Noon EST

We have power again. High winds today had toppled another tree across power lines a mile west of here. A cold blustery day today but there's a light at the end of the tunnel...highs tomorrow predicted to be in the 40s and then in the 50s all next week. Spring is just around the corner. "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy"

UPDATE Sunday morning March 11, 8:00 am EDT

Following is an article about the storm that appeared in today's issue of the Traverse City Record Eagle.

March 11, 2012

As many as 200,000 lost power in massive storm last weekend






TRAVERSE CITY — The March 2012 storm: epitome of in-like-a-lion, stuff of local lore.

We’ll be talking about it for years.

Snowfall that measured by the foot, a 12-hour barrage that massed and felt like poured cement. Flattened shrubs and tree limbs that snapped and cracked and sounded all the world like gunshots.

Impassable roads, an eerie morning-after scene dominated by stark white, and, for thousands of households and businesses, darkness.

Perhaps 200,000 northern Michigan electricity users lost power late Friday, March 2 and into Saturday as falling trees clipped power lines.

Laurie Klingelsmith lost power at her Green Lake Township home on Friday at about 11 p.m. The lights didn’t come back on until Sunday at 7 p.m. On Saturday, she and her family headed to Traverse City to stay with her mother, but travel wasn’t easy.
 “We had to chainsaw our way out of the driveway,” Klingelsmith said.
 Before the power returned, Klingelsmith’s clan scrambled to collect oil lamps, wood and other supplies. Next time, she said, they’ll be prepared.
 “I told my husband this was the time to have an emergency stash,” she said.

Traverse City resident Christine Jaymes gathered flashlights and candles before the storm hit. She and her husband lost power for about 24 hours and the items came in handy.
 “We knew it was coming,” she said. “This time, the weatherman was right.”

Tart cherries decimated
 Area cherry farmers reported widespread damage to orchards. Older tart cherry trees took the brunt.
 Overall damage estimates range from a low of 5 percent to a high of 20 percent of the cherry crop in Leelanau, Grand Traverse, Benzie, and Antrim counties, experts said.
 “We got our butt kicked, said Leelanau County farmer Jeff Send. “It could equate to the loss of 15 to 20 million pounds of product, and it’s not just gone this year, it’s gone for the next 10 years.”

Send rode a snowmobile to check on one of his blocks of 400, 10-year-old trees that are nestled in a wooded area to protect them from wind damage.
This storm threw a curve at Send. Snow fell in waves over the taller woodlot and directly onto the fruit trees nearest the woods.
 “I’ve been farming all my life -- I’m 58 years old -- and I’ve never seen anything like this storm,” Send said. “The first three-to-five rows up against the woods, it was just more weight than the trees could support.”

Rob Manigold, a Peninsula Township cherry farmer, said orchards there sustained heavy damage, though losses primarily were confined to older tart cherry trees.

Francis Otto of Cherry Bay Orchards reported spotty storm damage to his crop north of Suttons Bay. Some blocks of trees showed no damage, but older orchards were hard hit, with up to 35 percent of tart cherry trees destroyed.
 “As the wood gets older it starts to get brittle and they just snapped off,” Otto said.

Apple and sweet cherry trees appeared to have escaped serious problems, and vineyards aren’t the worse for wear, said Nikki Rothwell, district horticulturist at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station.
 Rothwell said farmers won’t be able to come up with firm damage estimates until they’re able to access their back lots.

Officially, the storm dumped between 19 and 23 inches of heavy, wet snow on Leelanau County, but emergency management officials said they received unofficial reports of up to 3 feet of snow in some areas.

Leelanau County officials asked Gov. Rick Snyder to declare the county a disaster for agricultural purposes, a designation that could provide farmers state and federal assistance.

“Usually it’s just a low-interest loan, but a loan is just a loan and you still have to pay it back,”  Leelanau County farmer Steve Kalchik said.
The storm snapped branches or leveled entire trees. Damage varied, depending on how much snow fell,  Kalchik said.

Dark days

The wacky winter of 2011-12 already cut into revenue at the nonprofit ski hill, Mount Holiday, just outside Traverse City. A slow start to the season pushed back the opening date and business was hit-and-miss in the new year.

Then the storm hit and cut power to the ski area from early Saturday through Thursday night.

“It’s been a hard year,” said Michelle Konstanzer, Mount Holiday’s food and beverage director. “We couldn’t open in beginning because there wasn’t enough snow, now we couldn’t open up because too much snow.”
 Konstanzer estimates the resort lost out on $20,000 in revenue last week, and workers were forced to throw out about $8,000 worth of food. It’s a big hit for the nonprofit, which already faced an uphill funding battle amid the bad economy.
 “I’m not taking a paycheck, so I can help my staff ... I have people trying to raise kids, and they just got the week off with no pay. For those living paycheck to paycheck, that’s not easy,” she said.

Mount Holiday was one of nearly 20,000 Cherryland Electric Cooperative customers — more than half the utility’s 34,000 customers — that lost power last week. Tony Anderson, the utility’s general manager, said the damage was the worst for Cherryland in at least 35 years.
 “People who have worked here all that time have been telling me they’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
 Cherryland was one of the last utilities to restore service to all its customers; fewer than 500 were still without power Friday morning. Anderson acknowledged the utility had difficulty finding outside crews to assist in the storm’s aftermath.
 “We were short-handed in the beginning, but there were 200,000 people out of power in all of northern Michigan, and it was tough to get crews,” Anderson said. “I had all my people, but I didn’t have a lot of extra help until Monday.”
 By Tuesday, 25 crews were at work on Cherryland lines. Fifteen more crews were at work by Thursday.
 Faced with a flood of incoming calls to report outages, Cherryland staffers turned to Facebook to keep its customers informed.
 “We’d tried really hard, but you have to understand, we’ll never be where we can answer 20,000 phone calls. We can’t even handle 5,000 phone calls, but 364 days of the year we don’t need to. So we used Facebook to alleviate that,” Anderson said. “People mainly just wanted to know what’s going on. It was a pretty good tool.”

Traverse City Light & Power also struggled to handle the influx of callers.
 “The phone system got locked up early in the process,” said Executive Director Ed Rice. “With so many coming in at once, even the answering system got overloaded. People just got locked out of communication. We need to do better there.”
 Rice said 8,000 of Light & Power’s 11,500 customers were without power at the storm’s peak. Almost all had their power restored by Monday night.
 “We were able to acquire downstate crews pretty early in process. We started calling about midnight on Friday,” he said.

More than 60,000 Great Lakes Energy customers were in the dark at some point, said Dave Guzniczak, the utility’s spokesman. Heavy snow made it difficult for crews to repair the lines.
 “It was very difficult to get to trouble spots. Some you couldn’t get trucks to, other trucks were getting stuck. It was even difficult with snowmobiles and snowshoes,” Guzniczak said. “Two years ago in October, we had a two- or three-day wind storm that actually created more outages — over 90,000. But we probably restored power quicker when we had 90,000 because didn’t have to deal with this wet, heavy snow.”

Mount Holiday’s Konstanzer is upset that the power outages took such a heavy financial toll on the nonprofit, but said Cherryland and the other utilities did the best they could under the circumstances. Her husband works for a power company, and he’s shared stories of devastation after tornadoes and hurricanes elsewhere in the country.
 “We didn’t lose any lives, just food,” she said. “Food can be replaced, lives can’t.”

Biggest since ’78?

Traverse City Police Capt. Steve Morgan believes the storm was the biggest since the famous blizzard of 1978.
 “Looking back, I can’t remember a storm ... that had that large an impact on the city,” he said. “I don’t ever remember getting that much heavy, wet snow in such a short period of time.”
 Residents generally stayed off city streets during the early period of the storm, Morgan said. But plenty ventured out later; some just sought information about when roads would be cleared or power returned.
 Morgan said he hopes residents learn from this storm and create a stash of emergency.
 “Everybody should take the responsibility for themselves and be prepared to stay in their homes for a couple of days if they have to ... . I think up here, people should realize that being out of power for 24 hours, 36 hours or even two days is a very real possibility.”

The storm wreaked havoc in the region, but no serious injuries were reported. And that’s remarkable, police said, with all the icy roads, downed power lines and tree limbs and other hazards.

“It’s unfortunate that people went a week without power, but to not have anybody injured seriously, we’re very fortunate,” Grand Traverse sheriff’s Capt. Randy Fewless said.

Gerry Thibert lives near Torch Lake in Antrim County’s Milton Township. He heats with wood, and nearly all of his neighbors who had gas-fired heat lost it during the storm.
 So he had about 15 to 20 neighbors over to his house, and they learned to appreciate his old-fashioned method.
 “They always wondered why we continued to heat with wood,” he said. “They sure thought it came in handy this time. We were the only ones who had heat.”
 Thibert said plenty of people who lived around him helped their fellow neighbors, so in a way, the storm was uplifting.
 “It brought our neighborhood closer together,” he said.

Linda Miller, who lives on Veterans Drive in Traverse City, wasn’t without power for long. She didn’t mind not having the ability to use her television and other appliances.
 “You get so used to all of those amenities,” she said.