Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Thunderstorms blamed for at least 6 deaths in Michigan

DETROIT Intense storms that battered Michigan s Lower Peninsula were blamed for the deaths of at least six people, widespread property damage and the loss of electrical service to more than 515,000 homes and businesses.

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings Sunday for a dozen counties scattered across the peninsula, but all had expired by 6 p.m.

There were no reports of funnel cloud touchdowns, but winds of up to 80 mph toppled power lines and trees up to two feet in diameter, the weather service said.

Flood warnings remained in effect early Monday for much of western Lower Michigan.

Two people delivering newspapers for The Grand Rapids Press drowned after the road beneath their car collapsed and it plunged into a ravine near Saugatuck. Two other people were killed by falling trees, a man apparently drowned while tending to a dam and a woman died when high winds blew a recreational vehicle on top of her, authorities said.

The newspaper delivery persons died about 4 a.m. Sunday in Allegan County s Saugatuck Township, about 40 miles southwest of Grand Rapids and 160 miles west of Detroit.

Both victims lived in Grand Junction, said state police Lt. Dave Greydanus. He identified them as Clarissa J. Green, 51, and her 17-year-old nephew, Dean A. Taylor.

A thunderstorm that dumped more than 5 inches of rain in some areas Saturday night caused the road to wash out and collapse under the weight of the car, which fell 40 to 50 feet to the bottom of a ravine, killing both victims instantly, authorities said.

The newspaper said Green s son-in-law, Larry Huff, is a contractor who delivers newspaper bundles for other carriers and also has his own delivery route. Green was delivering newspapers for Huff s route, the Press said.

We deeply regret the deaths of family members of one of our delivery contractors this morning, said the newspaper s publisher, Dan Gaydou. Carriers and delivery agents are diligent about fulfilling their commitments and are often faced with difficult weather situations.

In Eaton County, a woman was killed when high winds blew a recreational vehicle over and on top of her about 4 p.m. in Delta Township, about five miles west of downtown Lansing, Sheriff Mike Raines told the Lansing State Journal. No other information was immediately available.

In Conklin, Ursula Swidewinski, 53, was killed at 2:20 p.m. when a tree fell on her as she went to secure her pole barn in the community about 15 miles northwest of Grand Rapids, Ottawa County sheriff s Sgt. Keith Garvelink told the Grand Rapids newspaper.

Elsewhere in Ottawa County, sheriff s divers found the body of 76-year-old John Pekich of West Olive downstream from the Worley Drain Dam in Robinson Township. Pekich was known for tending the dam and probably was doing so when he fell into the fast-moving waters, the department said.

In Spring Lake, a motorist died when a tree limb fell on his car shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, The Muskegon Chronicle reported. WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids identified him as 26-year-old Chad Duchane.

CMS Energy Corp. s Consumers Energy unit said about 115,000 out of more than 300,000 customers affected by storms that first hit the area Friday remained without power early Monday. Hardest hit were the Kalamazoo and Lansing areas, with 15,600 and 13,000 customers, respectively, without service.

DTE Energy Co. s Detroit Edison unit said about 136,000 of about 200,000 affected customers were without service as of 10 p.m. Sunday, including 78,000 in Oakland County. Spokesman Scott Simons said power probably wouldn t be fully restored until sometime Tuesday.

About 15,500 Lansing Board of Water and Light customers were without power Sunday afternoon, spokesman Mark Nixon told the State Journal. Crews had restored service to all but 5,800 of the 19,000 customers who lost power Saturday before Sunday s storms hit, he said.

The storms struck on the 55th anniversary of the deadliest tornado in Michigan history. The June 8, 1953, tornado that struck the northern Flint community of Beecher and left a 23-mile path of destruction killed 116 people and injured another 844 along its path.

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