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Storm hits area hard

Lakeshore Boulevard north of Wright Street is heavily damaged after being pounded by Lake Superior waves in Wednesday’s storm. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Part of Lakeshore Boulevard in Marquette has been devastated, many people are without power and there’s probably still a lot of shoveling to do in the aftermath of Wednesday’s storm.

A record 3.02 inches of precipitation fell in the area on Wednesday, breaking the 2001 record of 2.16 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Negaunee Township. A total of 16.4 inches of snow was recorded, which was short of the 2001 record of 19.2 inches.

“Unfortunately, the winter storm coincided with one of the busier travel days of the year,” said local NWS meteorologist Jaclyn Ritzman.

Ritzman said that overall, the region had fairly significant widespread snowfall of 8 to 12 inches, with pockets of greater snowfall, especially in the higher terrain in north central and western Marquette County.

It was the kind of snow that fell, though, that was particularly problematic.

Much of the area at Shiras Park at Picnic Rocks is flooded following Wednesday’s storm. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

“It was very wet, dense snow. Oftentimes wet, dense snow can cause more significant impact than the fluffy lake-effect snow that we’re used to up here,” said Ritzman, who noted that makes travel difficult.

The snow also stuck to many trees, she said, and there were reports of downed branches and uprooted trees.

“The strong winds weren’t helping anything,” Ritzman said.

Waves pounded the Lake Superior shoreline along sections of Lakeshore Boulevard, with a section north of Wright Street heavily cracked and strewn with debris.

Marquette City Commissioner Andrew Lorinser expressed his concerns via email on Thursday.

“Marquette is underwater, literally and financially,” Lorinser said. “Solutions are necessary but expensive. The city needs to have serious discussion on the future of our shoreline. The devastation will only continue. As a coastal city we are on the front lines of an ever-changing climate, and we have some fundamental sustainability questions we need to immediately answer.

“It is no longer financially or environmentally sustainable for us to use emergency funds to repair a road the lake intends to take. Lake levels are up 18 inches and climate experts have told us for years we need to prepare, mitigate and adapt to climate change. We can no longer afford to tiptoe around this issue.

“Wednesday’s destruction — on an area in which we just invested over a ($100,000) to repair — is indicative of Band-Aid solutions that have no end game. We need long-term solutions. I’m confident in our ability to address this not only retroactively, but to ensure public access to the lakefront for the future.”

He said he supports moving the road farther inland but it needs to be part of a much bigger adaptation plan.

The current plan for the stretch of Lakeshore Boulevard between East Fair Avenue and Hawley Street is to shift it around 300 feet inland, elevate the road 4 to 6 feet and move the multi-use path closer to the shoreline, city officials said previously.

The first phase of the $12.3 million project, scheduled for this spring, will consist of relocating the road as well as placing temporary boulders along the shoreline, city officials have said.

Prior to Wednesday’s storm, the section of the road between Pine Street and East Fair Avenue faced significant erosion after strong winds and waves occurred on Oct. 16.

Due to this, emergency work approved by the Marquette City Commission in late October was underway, with a $154,000 project to armor the stormwater outlet near Lakeview Arena, as well as some of the shoreline along the stretch of road.

Although power has been restored in much of the storm area, some residents still are without it.

Brett French, vice president of business development and communications for the Upper Peninsula Power Co., issued a statement earlier today.

“Crews are continuing their restoration efforts this morning,” French said. “Approximately 1,200 customers are without power at this time. Generally, 300 are located in the Ishpeming area, 200 in the Houghton area and a number of smaller trouble spots are scattered throughout our service territory. We hope to have everyone restored later today.

“We are still working to resolve the technical issues that disabled our online outage map.”

The Marquette Board of Light and Power issued a press release on Thursday to address outages across its service territory.

“Our crews have been working around the clock and will continue to work until all power is restored to those affected,” it said. “The magnitude of this storm has impacted our system significantly; restoration of power may take longer than a typical outage.”

Heavy wet snow, icy conditions and downed trees were the main contributing factors to the outages.

As of around 9 this morning, the BLP — which serves nearly 17,000 customers in the city of Marquette and all or parts of nine surrounding townships — had less than 1,000 customers without power, primarily in the “outlying areas, south of Marquette,” BLP officials said this morning.

The BLP has a contractor assisting with some of the tree removal that’s been needed, officials said. While there are “no specific estimates” for when power will be restored to these customers, “we do have crews working around the clock and they are continuing to work until we get everybody restored,” said Ben Collins, manager of the BLP’s distribution engineering services.

The Alger-Delta Electric Cooperative Electric Association, which serves 10,000 members in six counties in the central Upper Peninsula, reported around 2,400 members out of power this morning, according to a Facebook post made around 7 a.m.

“Many members have asked about updates and restoration times in specific areas. Each outage restoration is unique — some involving replacing a fuse while others require placing a pole (a 3-4 hour process),” the post states. “We have limited details from the field as our line crews are focused on working as safely and diligently as possible to get lights back on for our members. We truly appreciate your continued patience and understanding as our crews recover widespread storm damage.”

Customers of both utilities are encouraged to report outages or downed lines. Call 906-228-0300 to reach the BLP, or 1-800-562-0950 to contact the Alger-Delta Electric Coop.

The region still might not be finished with inclement weather.

NWS issued a winter storm watch in effect from Saturday through Sunday afternoon for Marquette, Gwinn, L’Anse, Munising, Newberry, Ontonagon, Grand Marais, Escanaba, Gladstone, Manistique, Ironwood, Iron River, Iron Mountain, Menominee, Kenton, Sidnaw and Seney.

Heavy snow is possible, especially after midnight on Saturday night. Total snow accumulations of up to 13 inches are possible, with the heaviest amounts expected across southern Upper Michigan and in the higher terrain of Marquette County away from Lake Superior and in the Porcupine Mountains area. Again, travel could be difficult.