2017-03-16 / Front Page

High winds kept local emergency crews busy

Schools, homes, businesses await power restoration
By Paula K. Schmidt
810-452-2647 • pschmidt@mihomepaper.com


Fire fighters battle high winds in a wooded area between two Grand Blanc subdivisions last week. Crews hand carried water tanks which had to be replenished often as there was no road access to area which was separated from the housing by a six foot deep gully which Thread creek runs through. 
Photo by Paula K. Schmidt Fire fighters battle high winds in a wooded area between two Grand Blanc subdivisions last week. Crews hand carried water tanks which had to be replenished often as there was no road access to area which was separated from the housing by a six foot deep gully which Thread creek runs through. Photo by Paula K. Schmidt GENESEE COUNTY — Highly unusual winds struck the county March 8, causing so many calls emergency dispatchers and responders alike had a hard time keeping up with wires down, trees down, and fires related to arcing wires as a result of those conditions.

According to the local 911 dispatch center, employees handled nearly 2,400 calls from 7 a.m. on March 8 to 7 a.m. March 9. They increased staff from 10 to 14 for the day, with extra assistance from supervisors and management staff, and instead of a lunch break, Director Dave Ackley provided lunch in house for the dispatchers.

NPR’s Michigan Radio interviewed Jeff Masters, a meteorologist with Weather Underground and he said the winds were caused by both pressure systems as well as a very wide temperature discrepancies—from below zero in Canada to 80’s to our south.

Masters said, “…the difference in pressure between that low pressure to the north and then higher pressure to the south is driving these extraordinary winds.” Grand Blanc school district closed both Indian Hill elementary and the high school early after losing power Wednesday as well as postponing parent teacher conferences and a middle school basketball game.

The high school did not regain power until approximately 10 a.m. on Friday morning, giving students an extended break. According to the United States National Weather Service office of Detroit-Pontiac, sustained wind gusts ranging 30-40 mph, with peaks over 60, caused wide-spread damage and power outages across the state. Additionally, many reports were received of over-turned semi-trucks, moderate to severe house, roof and car damage due to wind and downed trees

The high winds were an unusual feature for the Grand Blanc Fire Department which spent several hours in the very difficult conditions battling a serious grass fire. Started by an arcing wire in the woods behind the subdivision on Moonstone Drive off Belsay Road, the fire also blew smoke westward to residents in a subdivision off Hill Road, who were warned if anything critical happened, they might be forced to evacuate.

Firefighters battled high winds which continually pushed the fire westward, eventually calling in the assistance of the Atlas Township Fire Department which had special equipment and the extra manpower needed to get the blaze contained Wednesday about 5 p.m.

Deputy Chief Kent Maricle, said working in the sustained winds added another factor to their usual experience, adding that at the end of the day, “We were all pretty whipped.” Although a field fire is not atypical in their experience, he said the wind driven fire was kind of beyond the ordinary.

Atlas Township Fire Department had two wire calls and just as they were wrapping up the assist to Grand Blanc, had a shed fire which also was weather related, as well as two wire down calls. Goodrich resident Scott Giza reported a grass fire near Hill and Vassar Rd. near his home.

Some Grand Blanc Township residents took to Facebook and complained that being a trash day, they were fighting a different battle with trash and recycling spread throughout the area.

Resident Tracey Schneider and others expressed concern that the township recycling bins do not have lids and felt officials needed to address this issue in the current trash recycling program.

“They won’t provide new bigger bins and my question is how much will we pay in taxes to clean it up? More or less than new bins? Since the recycling program has started nothing has changed except the amount of people recycling and the amount they are recycling. Other cities have updated their program to accommodate the amount that is now being recycled.”

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