Strong winds cause damage in Marquette area

A sign along U.S. 41 in Ishpeming is almost completely blown over Monday morning following severe storms in the early morning hours. (Journal photos by Justin Marietti)

MARQUETTE — An early morning storm with wind gusts reaching more than 70 mph ripped through some of the most densely populated areas of Marquette County, causing sweeping power outages, road closures and severe damage along its path.

Todd Kluber, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Negaunee Township, said mild weather Sunday created a front stretching west to east across the Upper Peninsula.

“It basically set the stage for these storms to travel right along that front in the overnight hours, with the strongest right through Marquette County,” Kluber said, adding the NWS office recorded a gust of 71 mph around 3 a.m.

Radar and damage report estimates indicate gusts may have reached 80 mph in the core of the storm — resembling those of a weak tornado — just north of Republic and west of Ishpeming, where the most damage was observed.

“In my recollection … at least for the last several years, it’s the strongest wind we’ve measured at our office here,” Kluber said.

This morning, downed trees and power lines were observed in Marquette County’s west end, along with severe damage to residential homes and businesses.

Several roads are experiencing closures, including a portion of U.S. 41 near County Road 496, M-35 near the Negaunee Township Hall, Cooper Lake Road, Stoneville Road, County Road 581, County Road PPR and several within the city of Ishpeming.

A press release from the Michigan State Police advised motorists to be prepared for unexpected road closures, delays and detours.

“Emergency responders, utility companies and the Marquette County Road Commission are all working to clean up following the storm and restore power to Marquette County residents,” the release reads.

Kluber said the storm, which originated in northwest Wisconsin around midnight, traveled through Iron County, reaching Republic around 2:20 a.m. and continuing along the U.S. 41 corridor through Ishpeming, Negaunee and Marquette.

“It traveled from west Ishpeming to Marquette in a matter of about 20 minutes — faster than you can drive that route,” he said. “Pretty much every major road has at least one tree or some power lines down.”

Downed fences, razed roofs, fallen billboards, power lines and trees were observed throughout the county’s west end.

By the time it reached Marquette Township and the city of Marquette just after 3 a.m., Kluber said wind gusts weakened to about 50 mph.

A map on the Upper Peninsula Power Co.’s website this morning showed more than 3,000 customers in the areas of Republic, Ishpeming and Negaunee were experiencing power outages.

Several school districts were closed due to the outages, including Ishpeming, Negaunee and NICE Community Schools.

Along with high winds, Kluber said the storm also brought nickel- to dime-sized hail, rain and lightning.

This morning, temperatures at the NWS office were around 31 degrees. Cool temperatures and wind gusts around 30 mph are expected today, with the possibility of snow in the afternoon.

Kluber said winter weather will temporarily return, with about 3 to 4 inches of snow expected in the area of Negaunee and Ishpeming.

The Marquette area is expected to experience about 2 inches of snow tonight, he said.

“It might start off as rain, but it should switch over to snow by this afternoon,” he said.

However, a mild weather pattern is expected to return later this week.

Wednesday is expected to be in mid to upper 40s, with temperatures reaching the 50s by Friday or Saturday.