Crane operators, Consumers Energy ready for windstorm


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While West Michigan residents will be tying down and anchoring outdoor items ahead of the weekend windstorm, crews operating cranes in downtown Grand Rapids won’t be.

“Do you tie the cranes down? (That) is the assumption that a lot of people make. The reality is we do just the opposite,” said Chris Beckering of Pioneer Construction, the major contractor on the Studio Park project.

Standing 200 feet in the air, you may think a 50 mph wind would be an issue. But the tower cranes act like a weather vane when operators essentially unlock them.

“Which allows it to just free spin around on the mast. The beauty of that is your lessening the wind load because the jib will point in the direction the wind is blowing,” explained Beckering.

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Storm Team 8 says Sunday’s Winter Storm Watch could include sustained winds of between 40 and 50 mph, with gusts of up to 60 mph.

Consumer Energy is also preparing for the high winds.

Along with the obvious threat to power lines, tree limbs broken and weakened by the ice storm two weeks ago are adding to concerns.

Consumers has additional crews statewide on standby, and the utility company is not ruling out calling up help from other states again.

“Often, we have to make that request after the storm so we know the full extent. But we are looking at that as a possibility,” said Roger Morgenstern, senior public information director for Consumers Energy.

Unlike the ice storm which, which put layers of heavy ice on lines, causing sporadic outages spread over days, the wind storm will likely be a one-day event, which could give crews a leg-up on restoration efforts.

“The problem with ice is, as we saw a couple of weeks ago, it can sit on that line for hours and we may have different stages of power lines coming down and trees coming down on the power lines. So ice is really the biggest enemy of utility, but wind is close second,” said Morgenstern.

The advice from the utility company: be ready for anything.

And while you should steer clear of downed lines, don’t worry about spinning construction cranes.    

“If you do see them spinning around, don’t be alarmed,” said Beckering. “They’re designed to do that. They’re doing their job.”

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