High winds cut power to thousands; 1 dead

Detroit News staff and wire reports

After a windy Wednesday that left thousands of power outages across Michigan and is believed to have caused one death, Metro Detroit can expect more gusts on Thursday — then a cool-down.

On Wednesday, wind gusts peaked at 61 mph in Troy as well as above 50 mph in Pontiac, Romulus, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, the weather service reported.

That wreaked havoc across the region, uprooting trees in St. Clair and Livingston counties. The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office said a 26-year-old Gregory man was killed and his pregnant fiancée injured after high winds toppled a tree about 4 p.m. onto their 2003 Ford Expedition as they were driving south on Pingree Road in Marion Township.

“It looks like it’s an unfortunate accident,” said Sgt. Chad Sell.

The winds also cut electricity across the state Wednesday.

A wind advisory ended at 8 p.m. Wednesday, but the National Weather Service predicts gusts as high as 24 mph overnight and near 33 mph on Thursday.

There’s a chance of rain and snow showers Thursday night, with high winds expected to last through Friday, when the weather service forecasts gusts around 24 mph and a high around 40 degrees.

DTE Energy reported 16,000 customers were without power as of 3:30 p.m. , most of them in the Waterford area. Consumers Energy said 3,500 customers around the state were powerless because of the high winds.

Later Wednesday, DTE’s online map showed more than 1,400 outages west of Howell as well as smaller sections near Milford, Rochester Hills, West Bloomfield Township and Fraser.

In an email sent to parents in the Waterford schools earlier in the day, Superintendent Keith Wunderlich said power and phone service was out at Grayson, Schoolcraft, Pierce, Mason, Kettering, Kingsley Montgomery School and Waterford Village (Michigan Works site).

At Crary, an electric power pole snapped and DTE responded to the school, Wunderlich said.

“Due to the timing of these simultaneous outages, we are unable to do any early release,” he said in the email. “Our buses are already on the road for our high school runs. All buildings will be released at their regular times. Please know that students are safe. We have running water, working bathrooms and emergency lighting.”

The high winds prompted officials to close the Mackinac Bridge early Wednesday to all vehicles except passenger cars, passenger vans and empty pickups.

Wednesday’s shutdown for semi-trucks and other high-profile vehicles came as winds higher than 50 mph were reported at the bridge that connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. Drivers allowed to cross were required to go slower than usual.

Officials later reopened the bridge, but the Mackinac Bridge Authority is asking motorists to reduce their speed to a maximum of 20 miles per hour.

The Associated Press and Detroit News Staff Writers Francis X. Donnelly and Shawn D. Lewis contributed.