Officials stage for possibility of severe winter weather

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan authorities spent Friday preparing for a storm system that could bring rain, freezing rain and snow to the region this weekend.

The Kalamazoo County Office of Emergency Management will have crews at the emergency operations center Saturday to monitor conditions.

Director of Emergency Management Mike Corfman said he is expecting some flooding, primarily after the water has time to drain into rivers and lakes next week. He’ll have crews keeping an eye on gauges showing the level of the Kalamazoo River.

But the most immediate concern is the potential for ice. Ice storms are notoriously difficult to predict, so it’s hard to say exactly how much ice any particular area may see.

“The problem with ice storms or ice accumulation or any kind of freezing rain is that 1 or 2 degrees either way and we’re either going to have freezing rain or we’re going to have sleet or maybe just all rain and so it could catch a lot of people off guard,” Corfman said.

“If we do get a half an inch of ice, that could be a little scary,” Grand Rapids Emergency Management Administrator Allison Farole told News 8. “And we know that it’s hard when it comes to this kind of weather events … that can change within seconds, so it’s just again asking all the right questions, being ready for anything bad that can happen.”

A lot of ice would bring it the possibility for widespread power outages, especially if strong winds start tearing down lines bearing extra weight.

“Ice is the biggest problem that a utility can face,” Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern told News 8 Friday. “So we’re looking really in the middle belt of Michigan, if you will, including here in the Grand Rapids area down to the Hastings area, where we’re going to see some ice.”

He said crews were staged and ready go roll, but asked customers for patience because dangerous road conditions could slow response.

If you see a downed power line, stay at least 25 feet away — even if it looks like the line is not energized — and call 911 and Consumers Energy right away.

With the possibility of ice Saturday plus snow into Sunday morning, travel could be tricky, so first responders are making sure enough people will be on staff.

“We think we’re staffed really well for the weekend,” Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller said. “We do have people that we will be able to call in if we have to. The roads could be very dicey and we could end up with a lot of traffic crashes where people are in the ditch.”

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This could be the first big winter storm for Grand Rapids’ new emergency management administrator; her position was only recently created.

“We are on ready mode and standby that we are ready to open up a shelter if needed,” Farole said. “Or also with this ice storm, we want able to stay home. We don’t want people on the road. We don’t want people out. Stay home. It’s a Saturday. Just safer to stay home.”

While it remains to be seen just how bad the storm is going to be, there are things you can do to make sure you’re ready for whatever happens. Make sure you’re stocked up on food, water and medication, and charge your cellphone. Have a plan for how you’ll contact your family and where you can go if you’ll need help.

You can also call 211 to find resources.

Expecting bad weather, several West Michigan school districts and some schools have already canceled Saturday events. The city of Portage announced the Millennium Park ice rink would be closed.

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