High winds cause damage

High winds continued to pound Northeast Michigan Monday, causing trees to fall on power lines and freighters to hunker down in Thunder Bay.

But this morning, residents will wake up to lighter winds as the storm subsides, Nick Schwartz of the National Weather Service in Gaylord said. Although winds could gust to 10 to 12 miles an hour, they will slowly diminish.

At the storm’s height, a gust of 61 mph was recorded atop the Presque Isle lighthouse at 2:12 p.m. Monday, he said. At the Alpena County Regional Airport a peak, 44-mph gust was logged at 2 a.m., he said.

The storm hit around 3:15 p.m. Sunday and intensified as a strong cold front came through, he said.

Three freighters, the Robert S. Pierson, the American Spirit and the American Mariner, stayed put in Thunder Bay on Monday.

“November is a very active and difficult time to navigate, because it’s a transition season, where there is a clash of air masses,” Schwartz said.

A southern buoy, located 47 miles east of Oscoda, reported peak wind gusts of 40 mph, and wave heights of 10.1 feet, he said. A northern buoy, 33 miles northeast of Presque Isle logged 49 mph gusts and wave heights between 12.1 feet and 14 feet.

So some freighter captains may opt to stay put, especially if their crews are at risk of being hit by high waves or spray while on deck, Schwartz said.

“Typically when the seas pick up the freighters tuck in,” Mark Szoboszlay, chief officer in charge at the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Alpena, said.

Sunday’s and Monday’s winds also posed risks on land as trees toppled onto powerlines, knocking power out in some communities.

One homeowner realized only later how close she’d flirted with death after a pine tree hit a three-phase power line in front of her home on Werth Road.

The accident occurred around 2:20 p.m., when a Pepsi delivery truck driver saw the tree fall against the line, Rodney Haken said. He operates a convenience store at the intersection of Werth and Spruce roads and called 911 as smoke and sparks broke out.

However, about the only thing resident Chris Christopherson noticed was her lights flickered and her cell phone went out. So she drove down her driveway, walked under the severed line, which was draped over another power line overhead and made her call where the signal was stronger.

Paying little attention to the light green line, she walked underneath it several more times, as she worked on projects. She even retrieved a banner that had blown off the side of the store across the road.

“I just kept walking and doing my mailbox repair,” she said.

However, when two Alpena Power Company crewmen arrived, and Christopherson had gone home, they blocked off the entrance of her driveway, where the broken line was looped, and would not let anyone else enter.

General line Superintendent Pat Richard identified the line as the neutral fourth wire “which is dangerous,” he said. All totaled, the three-phase system carries 13,800 volts.

“The neutral wire has the potential for you to get harmed,” Richard said.

Elaine Orr, executive vice president for Alpena Power, said crews worked on sporadic power line problems throughout the day, but no major outages were reported.

“We feel we have a really good tree trimming plan and that really does affect reliability,” she said.

Presque Isle Electric and Gas Co-op was working on outages, including those in Posen, Onaway, Millersburg, Hawks, Black Lake and Lake Avalon.

An estimated 5,430 outages were caused by the strong winds and severe thunderstorms that hit the area, with service restored to at least 4,125 of them as of 5 p.m., company officials said.

In Harrisville, the Alcona County Courthouse was closed Monday because it was without power all day, County Clerk Patricia Truman said. However, the lights were on east of US-23.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at blehndorff@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.