Strong winds kill dozens of cattle, knock out power for thousands

Weather News

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Tens of thousands of customers are without power across Michigan Thursday after strong winds hit the area.

Consumers Energy said that over 181,000 total customers lost power. As high winds begin to die down, the company said over 350 crews will continue to work through the night on restoration efforts.

It expected to have power restored to the majority of customers by the end of the day Saturday.

The strong winds snapped several power poles on 32nd Street in Southeast Grand Rapids between Kalamazoo Avenue and Breton Road.

Chris Hamming lives in the area and is hopeful his power will be back on before the weekend with the dozens of lineman working on the project.

“There’s nothing you can do about damage like this. I mean it happens,” Hamming said. “We have kids and so it’s more frustrating when there’s nothing for them to do and then I work from home so I’m unable to do that.”

Jene Pruitt woke to the sounds of the power lines snapping across the street just after 4:00 a.m. Thursday.

“It was very frightening. My heart was racing. It sounded like lightning struck,” Pruitt said.

If you see a downed wire, the utility company says to stay at least 25 feet away from it and anything it is touching and call 911 then Consumers at 800.477.5050. Customers can also report an outage and check the status of an outage online.

Drivers are advised to use caution due to debris and downed trees on roadways and treat stoplights that aren’t working as four-way stops.

DOZENS OF COWS ELECTROCUTED AT NEWAYGO COUNTY FARM

While there are no reports of serious injuries from the strong winds, it proved devasting for a Newaygo County dairy farm where dozens of cows were killed.

The wind caused a chain reaction that brought down a power pole, electrocuting several head of cattle.

A photo of Butler Dairy Farm in Ensley Township on Dec. 16, 2021.

It happened early Thursday morning at Butler Dairy Farms located on E. 128th Street between Cypress and Cottonwood avenues in Ensley Township, southwest of Newaygo.

Tim Butler got a call from one of his farm hands early Thursday Morning. The farm hand was OK, but the herd was in trouble.

Inside four barns, all connected to the same electrical system, dozens of dairy cows were trapped.

“I was in the truck in the yard to stay away from the electric lines, and you could hear those cows dying. I’ve raised them from calf to milk cow. It was so heart breaking,” said Butler. “It looked like somebody was welding. There was just sparks flying off from every barn.”

Butler thinks the heavy rubber muck boots saved his farm hands from injury.

“The fact that the hired help got out alive while the barn was full of dead cows. … It’s a miracle that they got out,” he said.

Some 60 head of cattle died.

Veterinarians were treating and evaluating several other cows injured by the voltage.

“Right now, there was 150 in the dairy barn. There was about 70 out there right now and we’re still counting. So it look like there’s 50, 60 alive. A lot of them are hurt bad. Sparta Animal Clinic is here, assessing who needs to be put down,” said Butler.

It was part of the storm that brought wind gust of 60 mph to the area, knocking down trees and at one point, knocking out power to tens of thousands of home and businesses.

Along with the livestock loss at Butler Dairy Farms, the farm’s entire electrical system was damaged.

Within an hour, neighboring farmers showed up offering whatever they could do to help. Many volunteered to take the surviving herd to their own farms until Butler can get up and running again.

“A lot of good people,” said Butler. “Barn was full of people helping me this morning. Full. We’ve got a lot of good people here.”

STRONG WINDS DAMAGE FRUITPORT SCHOOL

Edgewood Elementary School in the Muskegon County village of Fruitport closed Thursday after strong winds ripped off the building roof. The damage happened Thursday morning amid a high wind warning for the area.

Fruitport Community Schools Superintendent Jason Kennedy told News 8 the district decided early Thursday to close all of its schools. He said all but one of the school buildings lost power during the windstorm.

Kennedy said crews would be at Edgewood Elementary Thursday and Friday fixing the roof and damaged exterior. He said the inside of the building is fine and is grateful for the community’s support.

“I’ve been in education 20-plus years, and you know the last several weeks have certainly been tough weeks here within our community. But what I really appreciate is that the community has banded together in support of one another and in support of the school district,” Kennedy said.

On Thursday afternoon, Kennedy emailed families to give them updates on the assessment of the damage.

“The insurance adjuster was on site this morning to assess the damage, and the District has immediately worked to mitigate additional loss. Damage has only impacted the exterior of the building at this point in time. The cost of the damage will exceed $250,000,” the email said.

He said that the district is currently waiting for approval from the insurance company to begin repairs. If that happens on Thursday, the roof is expected to be complete by Saturday. Due to this, Edgewood Elementary School will remain closed on Friday.

Power continues to be out at all buildings except Shettler Elementary School, Kennedy said. The decision about other buildings returning to school on Friday will be made Thursday afternoon.

Peak gusts of 79 mph were reported in Holland and 63 mph in Muskegon.

—Correction: A previous version of this story gave the wrong name of the farm owner and the wrong number of cattle that died. We regret the error, which has been fixed.

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