Trees downed in storm land on houses

A tree fell into the room where Coleen Westerhof had been sleeping only moments earlier. (July 1, 2014)

MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — Strong winds during overnight storms left tens of thousands without power and caused damage throughout southwest Michigan Tuesday.

Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties were hit the hardest, with many downed trees and power lines. Many areas reported straight line wind gusts of over 60 mph. The storm knocked out power to about 70,000 Consumers Energy customers, mostly along the I-94 corridor between Kalamazoo and Jackson.

In Marshall, a 74-mph gust at 2 a.m. downed trees — mostly old maples — all over town. Some landed on century-old homes.

>>Inside Photos of the storm damage

Coleen Westerhof was sleeping upstairs as the storm hit — in a room now occupied by a huge maple tree.

Her husband woke her just in time.

“My husband’s kind of a storm watcher, so at 2 a.m., he comes in and says, ‘It’s getting pretty dangerous out there. We need to get everybody and get to the basement,'” Westerhof said. “I got up out of the bed and the first step out of the door, the tree came through, so actually he’s kind of my hero.”

She and her family waited it out in the basement as the storm shook her house.

“Like it was a tornado. The whole house shook,” Westerhof said.

>>Watch crews remove the tree from Westerhof’s house via YouTube:

Westerhof’s wasn’t the only home damaged by a falling tree.

“Probably at least 100 and a half,” Todd Maisner said of the maple tree that landed on his house and his wife’s Chevrolet Traverse. “About 100 years old at least.”

The storm woke Maisner just before the strongest gust of wind hit.

“By the time I got to the window, I heard a big crash. Didn’t really know what happened, but I guess we had a little bit of a tree accident,” he said.

He and his wife escaped without a scratch. His house wasn’t so lucky.

“There’s a pretty big size hole in the living area,” he said. “And of course the upstairs, who knows how much damage is up there?”

Tuesday’s project was pulling the car from the wreckage, and then starting on the house.

“I can’t believe we got the car out as fast as we did,” Maisner said. “Now is the big part.”

Calhoun County emergency manager Durk Dunham said that there were only a handful of buildings that sustained structural damage county-wide. He also said it was a miracle that no one was injured in the severe storm.

In Battle Creek area, there were many trees and power lines down on Tuesday evening.

Jesse Stewart said he listened to the storm as it swept through.

“It sounded like a train coming through, and just a bunch of crashing and popping and all that good stuff,” he said.

His house lost power. His wife is pregnant and due any day, so he was cleaning up the mess and hoping the lights came back on soon.

Consumers Energy said crews from Traverse City were coming in to help restore power. Many customers were expeceted to have power back by late Tuesday or early Wednesday, though it might be until late Wednesday for hardest hit areas.

Dunham said that “Restoration by Consumers is going very, very well because of the perfect weather.”

He went on to say that during December’s ice storm, power was out for a week or 10 days. But now, “because the weather is so good, and it’s expected to be good tomorrow, they’ve made a lot of headway.”

>>Inside Consumers Energy outage map

Power outages as of 4:30 a.m. Wednesday:

  • Barry County: 108
  • Calhoun County: 13,032
  • Kalamazoo County: 2,114
  • St. Joseph County: 2,277

Around 2,100 Midwest Energy Cooperative members remain without power. Crews will return to work at 6 a.m. Wednesday to resume work and hope to have all services restored by Friday. Midwest Energy provides services to more than 35,00 customers in 11 counties in southern Michigan and northern Indiana and Ohio.

The Red Cross set up a cooling center and overnight shelter for those without power at its office at 14600 Beadle Lake Road in Battle Creek, though only a few people may show up.

“Because those are two or three people who have no place to stay, and as the Red Cross it’s our job to serve those people in their times of need,” Calhoun County Red Cross Branch Manager Katy Lagoni said.

The City of Battle Creek said in a Tuesday release that storm damage debris pickup will begin Monday, July 7. Further instructions and information are available on the city’s website.

The city’s Department of Public Works services to the public may be limited as the building located at 150 S. Kendall Street, continues to operate on generator power after the storm early Tuesday morning.

The department has experienced intermittent phone problems during the outage, and residents may have trouble reaching staff until the power is restored.

While the Waste Water Treatment Plant is fully operational, residents are asked to call 269.966.3513 right away if they experience problems like drains not emptying or toilets not flushing.

24 Hour News 8’s Dani Carlson contributed to this report.

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