Power utilities still working to address ice storm issues

Marquette’s Harbor Lighthouse is seen during the ice storm on Monday. (Photo courtesy of Laura Maynard of U.P. Serenity Photography)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Board of Light and Power and Upper Peninsula Power Co. are still responding to customer power outages today from what the National Weather Service is calling a historic ice storm.

Over 400 customers were without power this morning after Monday’s storm.

Karl Benstrom, distribution superintendent of the BLP, said most of the reported outages in the utility’s territory are spread among Negaunee and Chocolay townships.

“We have a few in Sands Township and other areas, too, but mostly in those two townships,” he said.

During the height of the storm, Benstrom said around 10,000 customers were without power.

Ice covers the branches of a tree in downtown Marquette. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

“We brought in crews from out of the area last night who are still with us today,” Benstrom said. “It’s rare we get to that point, so it tells you what kind of storm this is.”

Benstrom said staff will continue working on the issue for several days.

“Now that it’s daylight, we’re seeing trees on lines and depending on how they react — if we get any wind, they could start snapping,” he said.

Brett French, vice president of business development and communications of UPPCO, said the company, which serves around 52,000 customers, is working systematically to restore services to customers who have been impacted by the ice storm.

Many closures were announced Monday, including delivery by the U.S. Postal Service, schools, government buildings, and food and beverage establishments.

The Marquette County Emergency Management office, along with the American Red Cross, set up two warming shelters at the Chocolay Township Fire Hall and Ishpeming Township Hall due to the power outages caused from freezing rain and downed trees.

Marquette County Transit Authority announced today that it will not be running any fixed routes due to the weather and unsafe travel conditions. But there will be a limited number of buses out for previously scheduled door-to-door trips for medical appointments, according to its website.

Gwinn, Ishpeming, NICE, Negaunee and Marquette schools are closed today, while many others called a two-hour delay.

According to the NWS website, a system tracking northeast across the upper Great Lakes brought with it anomalously warm temperatures and record-breaking precipitation water values, resulting in the storm.

Many locations saw moderate to heavy freezing rain, resulting in one-quarter to around or just greater than three-quarters of an inch of ice accumulations, the website states.

Area police agencies warned people to stay off the roads as much as possible as driving surfaces are covered with a combination of ice, slush, water and snow.

“Other than some lake-effect snow showers continuing through early this afternoon, widespread snow returns to the area, dropping a quick 1 to 4 inches across the U.P. Lingering ice on the roads may make them deceptively slippery,” the NWS website states.

There’s an advisory for Gogebic, Iron, Delta, Menominee and Dickinson counties from this evening until early Wednesday morning. Snowfall accumulations of 3 to 4 inches are expected, with locally higher amounts.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.