GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Tornado sirens went off in metro Grand Rapids Wednesday evening as a strong storm rushed through the area, leaving destroyed roofs and downed power lines in its wake — but no reported injuries.
It’s not yet known for certain if there was an actual tornado, though the storm conditions were right for it so it seems likely. Damage could also have resulted from strong straight-line winds, since gusts were clocked at above 50 mph, or even a microburst.
The National Weather Service says it seems a tornado may have been on the ground near Lowell, though that wasn’t confirmed Wednesday night.
ROOFS TORN AWAY
In Grand Rapids’ Belknap Lookout neighborhood across I-196 from the Medical Mile, part of the roof was stripped away from an apartment building on Fairview Avenue NE at Hastings Street. Across the street, two houses also had their roofs destroyed.
Firefighters said everyone was safely out of the homes; they double-checked the apartments to make sure.
In the same neighborhood, a carport collapsed on top of a car. Trees were uprooted and branches were sheared away. Pieces of roof, insulation, duct work, tree branches and wires were scattered everywhere.
>>Inside woodtv.com: Photos of storm damage
There was a gas leak in the area, but crews said lines had been turned off and so had electricity. Consumers Energy said that it couldn’t start working to restore power in Belknap Lookout until after damage assessors were out Thursday morning.
At the intersection of Third Street and Broadway Avenue NW in Grand Rapids, an air handler that feeds the Basilica of St. Adalbert burst into flames. Firefighters were able to douse it. There was no damage to the church immediately apparent.
News 8 crews also saw black traffic lights, transformer fires and sparking downed power lines, and trees brought down across roads, on cars and atop houses.
TREES BLOCK ROAD
In the Ada area, downed trees blocked off roads in the area Dogwood Court, trapping some people in their homes without power.
A firefighter went on foot to check on residents. He said that everyone was safe, so he headed off to the next call.
A man who lives there but wasn’t at home when the storm came through was planning to start up his chainsaw and work his way down the road. He said he’s supposed to host a wedding at his house Saturday.
Later, utility crews started cutting up the downed trees so they could get past to respond to a gas leak.
POWER OUTAGES AND ROAD CLOSURES
There storm caused widespread outages: Consumers Energy Roger Morgenstern said there were about 49,800 customers without service across the state — 31,500 of them in Kent County — late Wednesday night.
About 8,000 customers in Kent and Ottawa counties lost power because of damage to high-voltage lines. Morgenstern said those lines, which serve lots of customers, were high on the priority list and that some of those people could be back online by Thursday morning.
But Morgenstern said it could be the end of the day Friday before everyone in the region has power back. He added that the restoration estimate could be pushed back if storms in the forecast cause more outages.
Morgenstern said crews started by responding to emergency scenes like the gas leak on Dogwood Court in Ada. He said the Jackson-based utility may have to get counties to clear trees so it can get to all of the areas with downed lines.
“People just need to be patient. We are making situations safe. That’s our first priority, to make the situation safe, and then we will restore power,” he said.
You should always stay at least 25 feet away from downed power lines. If you see one, call 911 and then Consumers at 800.477.5050.
There were road closures on Hayes Street between 8th Avenue and Fruitridge Avenue in Ottawa County due to downed lines and along M-37 between Hickory and Banfield roads in southern Barry County due to downed trees.
If you’re in need of help after the storm, call the United Way’s 211 for resources.
STORM DAMAGE NEAR NEWAYGO
As another arm of the storm swept through the Newaygo area late Wednesday afternoon, it downed trees and power lines there, too.
Director of Newaygo County Emergency Services Abigail Watkins told News 8 there were reports of trees and wires down and water over roads, mostly in Brooks and Garfield townships, but that she had not heard of any serious damage or injuries.
Newaygo County dispatchers say M-37 was shut down between 64th and 56th streets for a time because of debris in the road.