ST. JOSEPH — The Berrien County Emergency Operations Center was activated for the second straight day on Wednesday, Aug. 11, after another round of storms led to more power outages in Southwest Michigan.
As Indiana Michigan Power crews were working to restore power that was lost due to a flooded substation in Bridgman on Tuesday, another night of damaging winds and heavy rain made matters worse.
By Wednesday morning, I&M reported more than 20,000 customers were without power following both rounds of storms. At its peak, 27,000 customers had lost power. The storms overnight included heavy rain and winds gusts up to 60 mph.
Crews were working 16-hour shifts to restore power, but storms were hampering restoration efforts.
Some customers in the Lakeside and New Buffalo areas had their power restored Tuesday night, but due to the second round of severe storms, their service was disrupted again.
Heavy rain, strong winds and lightning in the area Tuesday night into Wednesday morning caused additional outages.
‘A huge financial impact’
Bridgman City Manager Juan Ganum said Wednesday that downtown businesses were in their second day of being closed with no power. He said he’s concerned about the economic impact on them.
However, some are getting creative.
Cheri Heward, owner of the Small Town Grounds coffee shop on Lake Street, sold coffee that she made at home and brought to the shop.
“There’s been a level of innovation by some,” Ganum said. “Coffee is good. Our emergency responders and utility crews are going to need it.”
Heward said she was unable to open the coffee shop on Tuesday, but by Wednesday she had power at home.
So, she recruited her husband, Jeff Heward, to make coffee there and bring it to the shop in beverage carafes.
“We went through quite a bit of coffee today,” Heward said Wednesday. “If we can’t open tomorrow, we’ll have to do this again. Being closed has a huge financial impact.”
She said many regular customers came into the shop Wednesday, but she also saw some new faces. Small Town Grounds gets its doughnuts from Red Coach Donuts in Stevensville, so the shop was able to sell them to go with the coffee.
Ganum said this is his first time as city manager using the county’s Emergency Operations Center. He said he was hopeful power would be restored sometime Wednesday but added, “There’s always an asterisk because a new round of storms is expected.”
I&M crews from Muncie, Ind., headed north to assist in Southwest Michigan, while crews from American Electric Power Ohio, Appalachian Power and contract workers headed to the area as well.
I&M said the company is prioritizing restoring power to those affected by the first round of storms while working to assess damage and respond to hazards such as downed wires. Afterward, crews plan to begin restoring power from the new outages.
With a second day of rising temperatures, county officials again opened cooling stations Wednesday morning at the New Buffalo Township Public Safety Building, Michiana Village Hall, Lake Township Hall and Lakeshore Public Schools auditorium.
However, centers were closed at 4 p.m. after temperatures stabilized and the heat index dropped, Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit said.
People who have experienced damage due to the storms should report the damage by visiting www.berriencounty.org/FormCenter/Emergency-Management-14/Report-Disaster-Damage-66. Once all the damage has been assessed, officials will decide whether to apply for federal disaster assistance.
Anyone who has questions or needs help with non-emergency problems is asked to call 2-1-1.
Heit said the following roads remain closed due to possible culvert issues under the roadway from the high water: Holden Road between Shawnee and Snow roads, and California Road between Ott and Snow roads.
Several fire departments have responded to carbon monoxide calls at residences that are using generators without adequate ventilation, Heit said.
For information about the proper use of generators, including adequate air flow, search cdc.gov for information about generator safety.