Officials urge preparedness ahead of weekend storm

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Experts are calling on the public to prepare ahead of this weekend’s winter storm that has the potential to cause widespread power outages and create dangerous travel conditions.  

“We’re kind of preparing for the potential of the worst,” Kent County Emergency Manager Lt. Louis Hunt said.  

Storm Team 8 is predicting freezing rain, snow and ice in the weekend forecast with the winter storm watch taking effect Friday night.

Meteorologist Ellen Bacca said past storms that have produced this much freezing rain have caused car accidents, millions of dollars of damage and power outages that lasted for days.

Reporter Jacqueline Francis speaking with Meteorologist Ellen Baca about the winter storm heading our way. (Jan 9, 2020)

Consumers Energy is bracing themselves for widespread outages due to the freezing rain and ice.

According to the company, a half-inch of ice can add as much as 500 pounds of additional weight to trees and power lines.

“Ice is the biggest enemy of a power company,” Consumers spokesman Roger Morgenstern said. “There’s not a lot we can do with mother nature, but we are ready. We’ve got men and women and equipment ready to go.”

Officials say the best way to prepare is to stock up on the essentials, including everything from food and water to backup power sources to charge cell phones.

“If you can make yourself self-sufficient for up to 72 hours, that’s really important to us in emergency management,” Hunt said. “Then we can start to concentrate on the people that really require resources.”

Morgenstern said mpower outages could last for days depending on the conditions.

“We want to make sure our customers are patient because the challenge with ice is you get outages when it first happens, but then the ice thaws and the lines spring back up into the trees and we get outages again,” Morgenstern said. “So, people may have multiple outages, which can be very frustrating.”

Another major frustration will be found on the roadways as travel could be nearly impossible in certain areas.

Officials are encouraging people be prepared and plan to stay in this weekend as this winter storm has the potential to make history.

“I think this one has the potential to be memorable,” Bacca said. “West Michigan natives have those storms that they remember … (and) this has thepotential to be memorable.”

Check the Consumers interactive outage map online for the most updated information on restoration estimates.

You can find a list of safety tips to prepare for winter storms on Consumers Energy’s website.