Month later, northern Mich. still recovering from storm

John L. Russell
Special to The Detroit News

Glen Arbor — Carol Worsley still has nightmares about the ferocious storm more than a month ago that ravaged the Traverse City area.

She was sitting at her desk in her home office when it started to rain.

“I was enjoying the sound of the rain,” she said. “All of the sudden, it was black. I ran to the top of the stairs, and the next I remember, I was at the bottom of the stairs, under a piece of sheetrock.

“I think there are 10 stairs — the sheetrock panel kept me covered from broken glass and debris, rain and hail, which was hitting the wall board on top of me.”

Don, 81, her husband of 58 years, had just left the house to return to the couple’s Birmingham home. Before she could reach her cellphone, two more trees fell on the outbuilding where she lay trapped.

When the storm subsided, Worsley wondered what to do. She found her cellphone. “I was able to call Don, he turned around but couldn’t travel far due to blocked roads from fallen trees,” she said.

Trees are still being removed from properties all over the region. With an untold number of trees down, it will be months before most are removed. The costs will have to be covered by insurance or emergency state aid.

A Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund is now available to provide help to Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties after the Aug. 2 storms, which brought intense winds, heavy rain and hail. Some estimates say the storm and cleanup will cost tens of millions to complete.

The counties and communities will be eligible to apply for assistance grants for up to $100,000 to cover storm costs. Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of disaster for both counties.

Roads are open in the region, power has returned, and the village of Glen Arbor is busy with tourists and visitors from all over, who come to shop and visit the nearby Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. In the aftermath of the storm, the village was isolated for days as downed trees blocked roads.

Still, Worsley is confronting the frightening memory of the storm. She has visited the unstable building behind their bed-and-breakfast, where their office was above a small garage. Two trees demolished the building.

Inside, she found most of her cherished items and papers that were in filing cabinets still intact. Her computer, fax machine and other office gear was crushed.

“It cost us $6,000 to move the tree off the building, they had to bring in a huge crane to move it, it took five days to get here,” Worsley said.

William Baxter estimates it will cost him $100,000 to clean up the 75 trees that fell on his property and repair the three buildings they damaged.

Baxter and his wife, Gwen, both 82, have lived in their home on the north shore of Big Glen Lake since 1967, and last month’s storm was the worst they have seen.

“We had 15 trees on three buildings, Baxter said. Insurance will cover damage to the buildings, he said, but the trees are not insured and are a loss. He estimates insurance will cover half of the cleanup and repair costs.

The couple couldn’t get out on their road for five days.

Crews that worked on opening the road and replacing downed power lines became a second family for the Baxters.

The Baxters cut and split hardwood for sale to area residents in Leelanau County, a form of exercise for Bill.

They now have a large supply of logs to keep them busy.

“We have over 200 saw logs stacked in our yard,” Baxter said.

“I cut wood to keep busy, I probably average about 50 cords a year. I just got a call this morning from two customers who were wondering if I could supply them this year. I told them, ‘yes, as soon as I get the roof off my supply.’”

“They are calling this a ‘Hundred-Year storm,’” Baxter said.

“I certainly hope they are right. I don’t want to ever go through something like that again.”

Carol Worsley feels fortunate.

“It hit me how lucky I have been, it hit me several days later, when I went out to the office and garage and saw the damage. I just feel grateful,” she said. “I’m going to keep going. We’ve got to rebuild, we love it here.”

John L. Russell is a Traverse City freelance writer.