Near-blizzard conditions hit U.P., while rest of Michigan buffeted by winds

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Parts of the western Upper Peninsula reached near-blizzard conditions Wednesday while much of the rest of Michigan was buffeted by high winds that left tens of thousands without power.

As of Wednesday night, DTE Energy Co. had restored power to more than 55,000 customers after 78,000 had been without power due to wind damage, DTE officials said. The rest are expected to be restored by the end of Thursday.

At least 438 crews fanned out across Metro Detroit and the state working to restore power to customers impacted by the storm, DTE officials said.

Dave Kook, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in White Lake Township, said wind speeds are widespread across the area at around 30 mph and gusts of 40 to 50 mph will continue until 9 p.m. Wednesday.

"It's not a real pleasant day to spend too much time outside," Kook said.

A high-pressure system is building through Friday will lead to quieter and dry weather, Kook said, but colder temps for Thursday and Friday in the upper 30s.

"The next big storm is already taking shape, bringing a mix of rain and snow Saturday afternoon turning to all rain Saturday night into Sunday with a high of 40 and lows near freezing," Kook said.

More: Check on power outages with the interactive DTE map

More: View snow on webcams at Michigan Tech

A view of the clock tower from a webcam at Michigan Tech in Houghton, just after 1 p.m. To view live:

Meanwhile, snowfall totals have reached double digits in parts of the Upper Peninsula, according to reports to the National Weather Service at Marquette, and wind gusts were reported topping 45 mph.

A blizzard is considered sustained winds of 35 mph or more amid heavy snow for at least three hours.

Joe Phillips, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service's Marquette office, expected 10-15 inches of snow, with "isolated" accumulations of 18 to 20 inches possible.

A pedestrian walks near downtown Minneapolis, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. Blinding snow is falling fast in southern Minnesota and is headed to the Upper Peninsula.

The storm is part of a low-pressure system that formed in the Rocky Mountain area and traveled northeast. Blinding snow was reported early Wednesday in southern Minnesota.

The weather service has issued a winter storm warning for Houghton, Baraga, Marquette, Alger and Schoolcraft counties in the Upper Peninsula and a blizzard warning until 7 p.m. for the Keweenaw County.

The warning is in effect to 1 a.m. Thursday. Six to 24 inches of snow are expected with the highest amounts probable northwest of Negaunee. In addition, winds with speeds of 40 mph may mean whiteout conditions.

On the eastern side of the U.P., snowfalls of about 10 inches are expected, with up to 12 inches possible in certain areas. A few thousand people in isolated areas of the U.P. were without power Wednesday morning; that number could grow as blizzard-like conditions move in.

Power outages in Michigan include more than 4,700 U.P. customers of Cloverland Electric Co-op and 1,064 in west Michigan for customers of Great Lakes Energy. Updates on outages were not available from another U.P. provider, UPPCO.

A dog pokes its head through an open window as snow falls in Duluth, Minn., Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP)

A marine warning is in effect for Lake Superior and Lake Michigan waters and northern Lake Huron. The weather service says winds of 48 to 55 knots are imminent or occurring. That means recreational boaters should remain in port or take shelter and commercial vessels should prepare for very strong winds and dangerous conditions.

The precipitation is likely to affect Michigan shorelines. The weather service has issued a lakeshore flooding warning for some areas along Lake Superior. The warning is in effect till 1 a.m. Thursday. The warning means flooding is occurring or imminent along a lake and nearby residents should be alert for rising water.

Furthermore, the agency said lakeshore flooding is possible along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

The weather service has also issued a gale warning for parts of northern Lake Huron until 7 a.m. Thursday. The warning means winds of 40 to 54 mph are occurring or imminent.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport spokeswoman Lisa Gass said Wednesday that despite the difficult weather across the Midwest, DTW has not been significantly impacted.

"Some travelers may experience delays or cancellations primarily due to weather conditions in other cities," Gass said.

"... We have teams monitoring the weather expected in our area. Our airfield operations and maintenance crews have established a plan that is focused on safety and efficiency that will be implemented if needed."