Thursday, July 21, 2016

Storm causes damage, power outages in western U.P. state parks; camping affected

Thunderstorms this morning, July 21, caused trees to fall on camper vehicles parked in Emily Lake State Forest Campground, which is located a few miles south of Twin Lakes State Park in Houghton County. So far no injuries have been reported, according to the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR). (Photo courtesy Michigan DNR)

From Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR):*

MARQUETTE -- Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) crews are continuing to assess and clear damage from a complex of thunderstorms that slashed through the western Upper Peninsula early today, felling countless trees and downing power lines.

Here in Hancock, power was off for about eight hours, restored at about 3:15 p.m.; but campers in State Parks suffered severe winds and damage.

Staff at the National Weather Service office in Negaunee Township said the storms pushed into the western U.P. from Minnesota, arriving at about 6 a.m. EDT and moving relatively swiftly east across the region.

"We’ve had damage reported at state parks from the Porcupine Mountains, east to Twin Lakes and especially at the Emily Lake State Forest Campground in Houghton County," said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. "At this point, we have not had any injuries reported from the parks."

This map shows the location of Emily Lake State Forest Campground, which is now closed because of damage from today's thunderstorm. (Map courtesy Michigan DNR)

The Emily Lake State Forest Campground, which is located a few miles south of Twin Lakes State Park, will be closed until further notice. DNR officials have contracted J.M. Longyear LLC of Marquette to remove numerous trees downed at the campground.

Thunderstorms struck the campground shortly before 7 a.m. today, knocking trees down on top of vehicles and two travel campers, which were occupied at the time.

Damage to two travel campers was reported today from the Emily Lake State Forest Campground in Houghton County. The campground is closed temporarily until further notice while crews work to remove safety hazards. (Photo courtesy Michigan DNR)

"Basically, cleaved them in half," said Doug Rich, western U.P. district supervisor for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. "Fortunately, nobody was hurt."

Trees were also downed at the Pike Lake boating access site, south of Emily Lake.

"The access site is not closed, but we are asking visitors to use caution in this area," Pepin said.

The National Weather Service said the storms packed strong winds, which were responsible for most of the damage, especially from Marquette and Iron counties west across the U.P.

This National Weather Service radar map shows the storm track at about 10 a.m. today, July 21. (Map courtesy Michigan DNR)

The strongest wind gust reported in the region today was 63 mph from Freda, located 15 miles west of Houghton. Kearsarge, also in Houghton County, reported 2.1 inches of rain. The storms had moved out of the area by noon EDT.

"The main damage reports in Houghton County came from Painesdale and areas to the southwest," Rich said.

Power has been restored at F.J. McLain State Park and half of the campground at Twin Lake State Park in Houghton County. Power remains out at Baraga, Fort Wilkins, Lake Gogebic and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness state parks (as of early evening today).

At the Porcupine Mountains, in Ontonagon County, the east end of the park sustained the most damage, with trees downed across roads and trails. A powerline down in the roadway blocked entry to the state park this afternoon.

Crews with chainsaws removed several dozen trees from county road 107 and the South Boundary Road at the park. A previous storm on July 11 damaged the west end of the park, forcing the closure of cabins, backcountry campsites, roads and trails.

Damage assessments from the prior weather event are still being compiled.

At the state parks without power, new reservations have been suspended over the next few days. Twin Lakes State Park, which had been closed this morning, has reopened.

Campers with reservations for Twin Lakes and Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State parks were being contacted today and provided options for reservations for scheduled arrivals through Saturday.

Those options include:
  • Keep reservations with nightly rates adjusted to the rustic rate of $13 as long as the park is without power.
  • Change reservation to another park with no modification fees.
  • Cancel reservation for a full refund.
At Fort Wilkins, Baraga and Lake Gogebic state parks, campers with reservations scheduled with arrivals for today and Friday, July 22, are being contacted.

Customer options for tonight at those parks are the same three listed above.

For arrivals Friday:
  • Campers are being made aware of the current situation and the possibility that power may not be restored Friday.
  • Change reservation to another park with no modification fees.
Late this afternoon, power was restored at Lake Gogebic State Park, but the DNR will continue to back the same offer to campers.

"We are also recommending campers contact the call center prior to heading to the park to check on the current power status," Pepin said. "We are also encouraging customers to be patient with any refunds."

Because of the power outages, number of parks, bookings, and prioritizing tasks, all refund adjustments for customers currently in the parks, and those choosing to leave early, will be processed early next week.

The call center number is 1-800-447-2757 or 1-800-44PARKS.

* Editor's Note: This report was received at 5:48 p.m. (EDT) Thursday, July 21, 2016.

No comments: