KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo County and the city of Kalamazoo have declared a state of emergency as the area faces power outages, downed trees and power lines after an ice storm.

During a news conference Friday, Consumers Energy said it expects the majority of customers to have power restored by Sunday evening with the remaining by the end of the day Monday.

In a joint press release Thursday, Kalamazoo County and the city said there are hundreds of downed trees and power lines.

“The City’s available resources to fully respond and recover have been exhausted, which is causing significant strain on our community’s ability to respond safely during this time,” the press release says.

It said the Red Cross has opened a shelter at the Douglas Community Association, located at 1000 W. Paterson St. in Kalamazoo. The Red Cross will have cots, food and water for residents. Area officials encouraged residents to bring their own bedding.

“With continued high winds, we are expecting further outages and downed trees. Thank you to our first responders, who are working tirelessly to clear the roads,” Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners Chair John Taylor said in the release. “Please stay safe as we come together as a community to pull through this storm.”

This city has requested help from the county.


With tens of thousands of power outages in southwestern Michigan, it could take five days to get service back to everyone.

Consumers Energy said that as many as 250,000 customers statewide lost power as a result of Wednesday’s winter storm, with the worst of the outages around Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson, Hillsdale and Adrian.

As of Friday afternoon, the utility company said it restored services to around 80,000 customers.

“This was a very unusual storm,” Consumers Vice President of Electric Distribution Engineering Greg Salisbury said. “A lot of outages in a relatively small area.”

The power outages led Kalamazoo Public Schools to cancel classes again Friday for the third straight day. Galesburg-Augusta Community Schools called it for Friday, too.

“We appreciate the patience of our customers as our crews work to restore power,” Norm Kapala, one of Consumers Energy’s officers in charge for the event, said in a release Thursday evening. “Over 450 crews, including mutual assistance from four other states, will continue to work through the night as they clean up nearly 8,000 downed wires and other debris blanketing the southern part of Michigan.”

Restoration efforts will continue around the clock, with crews rotating through 16-hour shifts.

“It’s going to be all hands on deck for the next several days here as we try to get power back on for all of our customers a quick as possible,” spokesman Josh Paciorek said.

About half an inch of ice coated the I-94 corridor during Wednesday’s winter storm.

“(The ice) really creates a big problem in terms of the lines as well as slowing down our crews as we navigate on icy roads,” Salisbury said.

Across Consumers’ service areas, some 8,000 power lines came down, including some that blocked roadways. High wind gusts Thursday were expected to exacerbate the problem, plus tree limbs would shift more as ice melted and they were no longer weighed down.

Consumers expected most people would get power back by Sunday, though some won’t get it back until Monday. Paciorek asked for patience and understanding as crews work as quickly and as safely as they can.


As clean up and power restoration efforts continue in Kalamazoo County, neighbors in the area are hoping that the issues are fixed sooner rather than later.

A Portage resident walking her dog Thursday evening said she heard tree branches falling during Wednesday’s ice storm before portions of her neighborhood lost power.

“It’s awful. I hear a lot of generators going and that’s great but for people that can’t afford those, it’s difficult. It’s going to be a long cold night,” she said.

While she’s staying put at her Portage home, some others in the area finding other housing arrangements.

“They’re going to their parent’s house or to hotels, a lot of people are going up to Grand Rapids, I guess,” she said.

Her biggest concern about the lack of power is the food she recently bought and her elderly neighbor.

“I’ve just been checking on my neighbor who is 88 years old, by herself. That concerns me more, the older people in the neighborhood that aren’t getting out,” she said.

As crews work to restore power, the American Red Cross has opened a temporary shelter at the Douglass Community Association in Kalamazoo.

“We got a request from the city of Kalamazoo, just a lot of power outages, a lot of people that need a place to go and so we were able to mobilize our team and get this shelter set up,” said Jordan Kellicut, the disaster program manager for American Red Cross-Southwest Michigan.

Typically, American Red Cross emergency shelters remain open for 48 hours. There are no plans for the Kalamazoo to shelter stay open longer than that, but Kellicut said they would assess the need if necessary.

“The Red Cross has declared this a disaster relief operation, so nothing is off the table as it were,” he said.

Kellicut is now asking the community to wrap their arms around each other, as many are in need.

“I hope that the community rises up and we really show how strong we are as Kalamazoo. We can rise about this as we can rise above everything if we’re in this together,” Kellicut said.

Hotels in the Kalamazoo area are also very busy. A hotel staff member told News 8 that lots of rooms were already booked because of the MHSAA state wrestling finals at the Wings Event Center, and people coming in from the ice storm are adding to that.


Heirloom Arts tattoo studio in Kalamazoo was among the businesses that had been told not to expect power back until Monday.

“We’re kind of playing it by ear. We’ll see if it changes, but for now, we have everyone canceled through Saturday at least,” owner Mae Risk said. “It’s probably a couple grand in loss of sales, which we’ll make it back up. It’s OK. It’s tax season — people will come back.”

Risk said there was tree damage on the property, including a large branch on the roof, but no indoor damage and no injuries.

“We just redid the floors. If that gets ruined, I’ll be so sad. But I think it’s OK for now,” Risk said. “It happens. We’ve seen worse. We’ve been through worse. It’s Michigan. What are you going to do?”

In Mattawan, Dick Roberts said he had just gotten back to his quadplex unit along Main Street Wednesday evening when two branches came crashing into it.

“I walked in the door. I was home for about three seconds and I heard this awful sound,” he said.

There was damage outdoors and inside but no one was hurt.

“A tree comes down on a house; there are lot of worse things that happen in life. This can be fixed,” Roberts said. “They’re going to put on a tarp on it so I can survive until the builders get here to repair it.”

He said he had planned for the tree to be cut down before the ice storm because it was old and dying.

“I just called (the arborist) and said, ‘You know those trees you bid?’ I said, ‘One of them is already down. It’s in my house,'” he recalled.

Consumers said it was constantly working to inspect and improve its system, including looking at where it could bury power lines.

“We will definitely do some underground construction changes in areas where that makes sense,” Salisbury said.

But he added that installing those lines is often more expensive than maintaining above-ground infrastructure. He said Consumers was working to bring those costs down and with stakeholders to decide when and where lines could be buried.

People are reminded to stay away from downed power lines. Even if they look safe, you should assume they are energized. If you see a downed line, call 911 and Consumers.

Consumers also asked people to keep an eye out for crews working to restore power. When you see them, slow down and move over to give them plenty of room to work.

If your home remains without power for an extended time, call 211 to find resources near you.

A map outlining the special collection zones and dates. (Courtesy of the city of Portage)

The city of Portage announced it is holding three special brush collections starting March 6. Residents are asked to put the brush and limbs at the curb by 7 a.m. don’t the designated Monday. the city said branches should be between 4 and 6 feet long and less than 3 inches in diameter.

— News 8’s Madalyn Buursma contributed to this report.