GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Here’s how last week’s ice storm compared to some other memorable ice storms in West Michigan.
The ice storm on Feb. 22 and 23 hit the southern two rows of lower Michigan counties the hardest. Ice accumulations of one half to three-quarters of an inch were reported south of a line from South Haven to Detroit. The storm left over 850,000 Michigan customers without power and that included 260,000 Consumers Energy customers. At one point, over 90% of Hillsdale County was without power. Nearly 40% of Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties lost power.
The storm downed literally tens of thousands of tree limbs. Some of those limbs blocked roads and knocked down power lines. Strong winds accompanied the precipitation, gusting at times to over 35 mph.
To the south in Indiana and Ohio, the temperature was above freezing for much of the event, so they had just rain. A strong warm front came up into central Indiana and Ohio. North of the front, it was in the 30s to low 40s. South of the front, the temperature soared to 70 degrees in Indianapolis. Thunderstorms moved through much of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, some producing small hail.
In the I-96 counties, some of the precipitation fell as sleet and snow. While this area did see some freezing rain, it wasn’t enough to cause significant damage to trees and wires, though it did cause crusty ice to form on top of 1 to 2 inches of sleet and snow, so there were slippery spots.
Farther north, much of the precipitation fell as snow. Big Rapids recorded 6 inches of snow and one weather station near Mt. Pleasant reported 7.5 inches of snow.
The last significant ice storm in West Michigan occurred on Feb. 6 and 7, 2019. A significant ice even occurred in Upper Michigan on Feb. 4 of that year. In West Michigan, the hardest hit areas were from Muskegon County across northern Kent into Ionia and Montcalm counties. Roughly 150,000 Consumers Energy customers lost power and it took five days for power to be restored to all affected areas.
A total of one half to three quarters of an inch of ice coated tree limbs and wires. The temperature in Grand Rapids (at the Ford Airport) held between 31 degrees and 33 degrees for more than 24 hours. From Allegan and Barry counties to the south, much of the precipitation fell as rain with temperatures slightly above freezing.
A significant ice jam occurred shortly after this event on the Grand River at Portland.
The ice storm of Dec. 22, 2013, hit hardest from Barry County to Flint and into the Thumb area. Over 380,000 customers were without power for up to eight days. This was right before Christmas. The severe icing was in a band about 30 to 40 miles wide. A state of emergency was declared.
Farther south, there were 13 tornadoes that occurred with this system from Kentucky to Louisiana.
This was also the year of the big flood on the Grand River in April.
Another memorable ice storm occurred around New Year’s Day in 1985. This storm left up to an inch of ice on trees and wires. The hardest hit areas were from Grand Rapids south to the Indiana border, particularly the I-94 counties. Approximately 430,000 customers lost power. Damage estimates from this storm were around $50 million.
I remember the big ice storm of March 1 and 2 in 1976. It hit hardest from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo across the state to the Thumb area. Twenty-nine counties saw significant icing. This region saw 2 to 10 inches of snow and then up to an inch of freezing rain on top of that. Again, over 400,000 customers lost power.
A large section of Southern Lower Michigan as declared a major disaster area. I remember working that storm and how long it took to scrape the ice off my old Pontiac Tempest.