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Ice, wind knock out power to thousands near Grand Rapids

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
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Freezing rain and high winds left 229,000 Consumers Energy customers without power since Wednesday and more than 153,200 remained without power early Friday in west Michigan, the utility said.

Another storm threat and high winds could spark more outages, including in Metro Detroit, on Friday.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm advisory for much of west Michigan until 7 p.m. Friday. Wind gusts to 45 mph could down tree limbs, and snow showers are possible.

The conditions prompted Ionia County to close offices Friday, officials said on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the weather service placed most of southeast Michigan, including Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Wayne,
Lenawee and Monroe counties, under a wind advisory until 10 a.m. Friday. 

Winds are expected to gust around 45 mph overnight, leaving the risk of downed tree limbs and power lines that could lead to isolated power outages.

More than 18,000 DTE Energy customers were without power Friday morning, the company said.  

There is a chance of snow showers Friday with a high of 20 and a low of 12. Saturday brings a high of 24 and sunny weather, the weather service said. Saturday's low is expected to be 15. Sunday brings a 60 percent chance of snow, with a high of 29 during the day and a low of 21 and a 40 percent chance of snow Sunday night.

Another storm Friday in west Michigan could hamper restoration efforts there.

“We know an electric interruption is a huge inconvenience to our customers,” said Guy Packard, Consumers Energy vice president of electric operations. “The series of ice storms causing damage throughout this two-day period is making restoration challenging for our crews. We are focused on supporting our customers in western and northern Michigan, especially as high winds may cause additional outages. We cannot thank our customers enough for the patience they have demonstrated.”

A winter storm that coated power lines with nearly a half-inch of ice across west Michigan on Wednesday brought the power outages, the company said. A second round of freezing rain struck the region Thursday morning, Consumers said, further challenging restoration times.

Since early Wednesday, about 193,000 customers lost electric service, it said. By late Thursday, about 145,000 were without power.

Most customers should have power restored by late Sunday but the hardest-hit areas could take until Monday, company officials said.

The double coating of ice weighed down the trees, causing them to fall or hit electric lines, Consumers said. The effect of the ice is "equal to 500 pounds of additional weight," the company said.

The company said it has more than 1,200 Consumers Energy employees and contractors working to restore power, "from lineworkers, damage assessors to call center representatives ... "

Also, 100 mutual aid workers from Kentucky are helping with restoration and more mutual aid assistance is sought, the company said.