Record-breaking storm leaves thousands of U.P. residents without power

Tree branches hang heavy with snow and ice in front of snow-covered docks in Marquette’s Lower Harbor this morning following Monday’s storm. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)

MARQUETTE — A record-breaking snowfall contributed to thousands of electric utility customers in the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin finding themselves without power this morning.

Cloverland Electric Cooperative reported the highest number of outages at 15,600 as of Monday, with the largest concentration in the Chippewa County communities of Sault Ste. Marie, Kinross, Drummond Island and Brimley.

“Despite line crews working tirelessly since early Monday morning, progress with restoration efforts has been difficult as additional outages occur due to heavy snow load and ice accumulation causing more trees and branches on power lines,” a Cloverland press release issued Monday states.

Cloverland officials told their customers to “consider alternate arrangements as necessary to ensure their safety during this extended outage which will likely take multiple days to restore.”

Nearly 1,000 We Energies customers in the southwestern U.P. and northern Wisconsin were without power as of press time today, while the Upper Peninsula Power Co. reported fewer than 100 outages, according to the company’s website.

Meanwhile, Marquette Board of Light and Power repair crews were dispatched overnight, though the number of customers affected is unknown at this time.

The National Weather Service in Negaunee Township reported a record 9.8 inches of snow had fallen in the area Monday, breaking the date’s 1997 snow fall record of 7.7 inches.

It also reported a precipitation record of 1.11 inches, breaking the 1972 mark of .64 inch on the same date.

However, the weather event might not be considered that unusual.

“I would say it’s a pretty typical snowfall for this year at this point in time,” said Taylor Prislovsky, a meteorologist with the NWS office in Negaunee Township. “The U.P. has some big winter storms pretty regularly.”

The snow started out as wet heavy snow, but turned into a drier snow, he said.

Prislovsky noted snow totals in the U.P. varied quite a bit, with some areas getting close to a foot of snow while others received only half a foot.

One of the hardest-hit regions was Painesdale, which Prislovsky said saw 13.9 inches and possibly more. Watersmeet also received close to 12 inches of snow while Manistique had 10 inches.

Locally, Prislovsky said Harvey observed 8.5 inches, but over a 24-hour period, the NWS office recorded 11.8 inches of snowfall.

He said light showers were expected to weaken and dissipate by afternoon.

For New Year’s Day, the NWS forecast called for mostly sunny weather during the day with a high of 27 degrees and mostly clouds at night with a low of 21 degrees.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.

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