Ill wind blows through UP

The severe weather which passed through much of the western Upper Peninsula included powerful winds, which caused widespread damage and power outages, but there is no indication, yet that tornadoes touched down anywhere, according to Matt Zika.

Zika, who is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Negaunee Township, said a complex of storms, which began in North Dakota, passed through northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin before hitting the western U.P.

Winds in northern Wisconsin reached about 80 mph, and caused damage, Zika said.

Straight-line winds caused damage in Ironwood, Ontonagon and areas south of Houghton, Zika said. In the Twin Lakes and Toivola area, winds reached 70 to 85 mph.

“Radar suggests straight-line winds,” he said.

Although there have been no reports of tornadoes or funnel clouds, Zika said he will visit areas in Houghton County to determine if there is any evidence of tornadoes touching down.

Zika said the storm, which moved from west to east, began in the western U.P. about 6 a.m. By the time it reached the Negaunee and Ishpeming area it was significantly weakened.

Dave Forsberg, Upper Peninsula Power Company community, media and government relations representative, said as of 1 p.m. thousands of customers from Chassell to Ontonagon County and north to Houghton and Keweenaw counties were still without power.

Trees fell on three power lines owned by American Transmission Company, which distributes UPPCO power, Forsberg said.

“Everything started about 6:45 a.m.,” he said of the power outages.

However, as of about 12:15 p.m., power was restored in the city of Houghton and Laurium using a fuel-oil powered generating facility.

Forsberg said there are about 20,000 customers in the area affected by the power outage, but as of 1 p.m. 10,000 to 15,000 customers were still without power. At that time it was also uncertain when power would be restored to all customers.

Forsberg said a full complement of work crews were out working on restoring power to customers. UPPCO is asking people not to call the company except to report an outage at 800-562-7809. Anyone seeing a downed power line should not touch it, but call the same telephone number.

“Assume it’s always energized,” he said of downed power lines.

According to a release from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the storm-caused damage led to the closure of several state parks in the western U.P., including Emily Lake State Forest Campground where falling trees damaged at least two campers. Power was out at F.J. McLain, Baraga, Fort Wilkins, Twin Lakes and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness state parks.

No injuries were reported from any of the parks, according to the release.