Berrien County hit with high winds off of Lake Michigan

Waves crash over the banks of the St. Joseph River channel Thursday. The storm is blamed for fallen trees and downed power lines in Southwest Michigan. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Waves crash over the banks of the St. Joseph River channel Thursday. The storm is blamed for fallen trees and downed power lines in Southwest Michigan. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BERRIEN COUNTY — Lake Michigan’s November gusts made a mess of Southwest Michigan roads and power lines, but officials say they’ve seen much worse.

A Berrien County 911 dispatcher said reports of trees and limbs down were scattered throughout the county, with the Weesaw Township area seeming to be the hardest hit.

“It was hit and miss,” one dispatcher said. “It was really not as bad as usual when there’s a storm like this.”

Trees or limbs were reported to be blocking roads in or near Buchanan, Bridgman, St. Joseph, Berrien Springs, Weesaw Township and Pipestone Township.

Power outages were scattered, according to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office. No injuries were reported.

In Van Buren County, Thursday’s high winds caused scattered power outages.

Power went out at about 8:45 a.m. at the Van Buren County Courthouse in Paw Paw, and the decision was made to close the facility for the day at 1 p.m., County Clerk Tina Leary said.

According to Indiana Michigan Power’s outage map on its website, as of 1:30 p.m. Thursday, there were 2,047 Berrien County customers without power. By 4 p.m., the number was down to 1,285.

Nathan Marsili, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service Northern Indiana office, said Berrien County witnessed gusts anywhere from 40-50 mph.

According to information collected from NWS’ Benton Harbor station, Berrien County clocked differing ranges of isolated speeds but only some pockets of light rain.

“We didn’t measure a whole lot of precipitation at the station,” Marsili said. “Even the winds aren’t as high as what was forecasted, however, there still has been a lot of reports of damage.”

Marsili said residents experienced strong winds Thursday delivered by a low-pressure front moving through the Great Lakes area.

Such wind speeds should not be a surprise to lake shore residents, Marsili said.

“It’s not uncommon to see these pressure systems this time of year,” Marsili said. “We are in this transition between autumn and winter. As that happens, low-pressure fronts get stronger and thus the wind gets stronger.”

Berrien County Road Commission engineer Brian Berndt said the amount of trees found on the roads were a county-wide problem for crews.

“Trees have been down all around. We’ve just been trying to open up the roads,” he said. “It’s been an all-day event, chasing trees. We go and clean up.”

In Chikaming Township, police Chief Todd Taylor said officers received quite a few calls about downed power lines and large branches on the road.

While crews clear roads, Taylor said he wants residents to drive slowly and use their headlights – especially on back roads.

“It’s nothing major so far. Just stay alert and be prepared for power outages and downed trees,” Taylor said. “We had one situation here where a tree was lying across a power line and it was sparking. As far as damage, its only been to the trees. There has been no confirmation of any damages to houses or cars.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 13, 2015)

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