Wednesday’s windstorm leaves Southeast Michigan powerless

Storm Damage, Ferndale Michigan, photo courtesy DTE Energy

The Detroit Free Press reports that millions of people in Michigan lost power in yesterday’s crazy winds and many are still without power:

A barrage of high winds Wednesday cut power to a record 700,000 DTE Energy customers and 290,000 customers of Consumers Energy across southeast and south-central Michigan, utility officials said.

A number of customers had been restored by about 10 p.m., bringing DTE’s outage number down to about 650,000 and Consumers’ down to 210,000.

…The total number of customers equates to an even higher number of people because the utilities’ term “customer” refers to electric meters, not individuals. “During the height of the storm, we were seeing 1,000 customer outages a minute,” said Randi Berris, a communications manager for DTE Energy.

As utility crews from Michigan began 16-hour shifts, and crews from four other states were due to arrive around dawn Thursday, families in the dark faced forecasts of possible snow and sliding temperatures for southeast Michigan, with a low of 12 predicted in Detroit by early Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Across the region, as winds clocked as high as 68 m.p.h. at Metro Airport, the weather knocked down even more trees and power lines than usual because the ground, instead of being frozen at this time of year, was soft and super-saturated with this winter’s unusually heavy rains, DTE Energy said.

View DTE’s photo bigger on their Facebook and thanks to the crews from both companies and elsewhere for their hard work – stay warm everyone!

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus)

Michigan Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, photo by Jonathan Schechter/Earth’s Almanac

In Season of the Massasauga Rattler!, Jonathan Schechter writes that the massasauga  likes our sun-soaked trails in the waning days of summer and early autumn, so you may catch a glimpse of one if you’re out and about in Lower Michigan. The Michigan DNR page on the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) explains:

Michigan’s only venomous snake is a rare sight for most state residents. Historically, they could be found in a variety of wetlands and nearby upland woods throughout the lower peninsula. During the late spring, these snakes move from their winter hibernation sites, such as crayfish chimneys and other small mammal burrows in swamps and marshlands, to hunt on the drier upland sites – likely in search of mice and voles, their favorite food.

Females give birth to 8 to 20 young in late summer. The young snakes have a single “button” on their tails; a new rattle segment is added at each shedding of the skin, which occurs several times per year.

The massasauga can be characterized as a shy, sluggish snake. Its thick body is colored with a pattern of dark brown slightly rectangular patches set against a light gray-to-brown background. Occasionally, this coloration can be so dark as to appear almost black. The belly is mostly black. It is the only Michigan snake with segmented rattles on the end of its tail and elliptical, (“cat like”) vertical pupils in the eyes. The neck is narrow, contrasting with the wide head and body and the head appears triangular in shape. Adult length is 2 to 3 feet.

These rattlesnakes avoid confrontation with humans; they are not prone to strike – preferring to leave the area when they are threatened. Like any animal though, these snakes will protect themselves from anything they see as a potential predator. Their short fangs can easily puncture skin and they do possess a potent venom. It is best to treat them with respect and leave them alone. The few bites that occur to humans often result from attempts to handle or kill the snakes. Any bite from a massasauga should receive prompt professional medical attention. When compared to other rattlesnakes found in the United States, the massasauga is the smallest and has the least toxic venom.

Massasaugas are found throughout the Lower Peninsula, but not in the Upper Peninsula (thus there are no poisonous snakes on the Upper Peninsula mainland.)

They stress that Massasaugas are listed as a “species of special concern” and are protected by state law, so don’t kill or harm them. Read on for more including some lookalike snakes.

Jonathan adds that almost all rattler bites are on the dominant hand of the offending human! He took the photo above two years ago on a popular Oakland County hike-bike trail and notes that much of Oakland County is ratter habitat. Visit Earth’s Almanac to read more and be sure to subscribe to his blog when you’re there!

PS: Nick Scobel of the Herping Michigan blog has a great video of some Eastern Massasaugas that you should check out!

More Michigan snakes on Michigan in Pictures!

Oh Beans! (Michigan Green Beans that is)

Oh Beans!

Oh Beans!, photo by Larry the Biker.

Taste the Local Difference says that although a 1/2 cup of green beans packs only 22 calories, it’s a great source of fiber and Vitamins A,C, K, folate, and manganese. I’m guessing that there’s a few more than 22 calories here but think of the manganese!

Click to read more including recipes like French Green Beans With Lemon.

Larry took this photo of the green bean harvest in Ray Township (in Macomb County). Be sure to check it out bigger … and also what the truck looks like en route!

Bones … and barns

Bones

Bones, photo by Cherie S..

Be sure to check this out bigger or in Cherie’s Rural Explorations set (slideshow).

If you’re interested in helping old barns like this, consider joining the Michigan Barn Preservation Network.

Stony Creek Sunset

Stony Creek Sunset

Stony Creek Sunset, photo by NnYSeb.

Summer in Michigan – dive in!

Be sure to check this photo out bigger or in Sebastian’s still in process July 2009 slideshow.

More summer wallpaper from Michigan in Pictures.

Balloons over Howell: The Michigan Challenge Balloonfest

Pics 126

Pics 126, photo by m7k7k7.

The annual Michigan Challenge Balloonfest takes place this weekend – June 26-28, 2009. It’s the state championship of hot-air ballooning and in addition to a sky full of balloons, offerings include three entertainment venues, a carnival, classic car show, medieval village and skydiving shows. 2009 is the 25th anniversary:

“Twenty-five years ago, the Michigan Challenge started with a whimper and a little burner noise,” said Competition Director Dick Rudlaff. “There were only a couple handfuls of balloons that first year, all good friends who flew together often. But we managed to elbow our way into the Howell community with the help of the chamber of commerce and all their volunteers who make this a true community event to be proud of.”

Of course, the highlight of the Michigan Challenge weekend is the five scheduled balloon launches Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 6 and 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday mornings between 6 and 8 a.m. Site host is Howell Public Schools.

Here’s more of m7k7k7’s Howell Balloonfest photos (slideshow). For more, check out the Michigan Challenge Balloonfest slideshow on Flickr and also this set and this one.

The story of the Irish Hills Towers

Irish Hills Towers

Irish Hills Towers, photo by dt10111.

The Wikipedia entry for the Irish Hills Towers says that these wooden observation towers were constructed along US-12 in the Irish Hills region in northern Lenawee County as the result of a curious competition along the lines of the skyscraper frenzy in New York:

In the early 1920s, the Michigan Observation Company sought places of high elevation to erect fifty foot high enclosed platforms to boost tourism. In southern Michigan, a tower was placed atop Bundy Hill in Hillsdale County, Michigan and officials sought a knoll in the heart of the Irish Hills in Lenawee County. A farmer who owned half of the knoll, Edward Kelly, turned down the company’s offer to purchase his portion of the land. The adjoining land owner, Thomas Brighton, consented the sale of his plat, and construction of the Irish Hills Observatory commenced.

The opening of the Irish Hills Observatory was announced by The Brooklyn Exponent in September 1924. In a gala celebration on October 4 and October 5, hundreds of people ascended the hill and tower to gaze upon the rolling landscape and crystal blue lakes in all directions. Kelly seemed spited by the exploitation of the MOCs venture, and protested by erecting his own tower. By the end of November, 1924, his own observation platform was in place, just feet away from the MOCs structure, and several feet higher.

The Michigan Observation Company responded by adding a second observation enclosure to the top of its own facilities, now designated as the “Original Irish Hills Tower”. Kelly proceeded to add a raised platform to his “Gray” tower (named as such because of its gray-painted exterior), an act which brought the two edifices to an even height. The MOC informed Kelly that if he attempted to compete with more height given to his tower, they would tear down their own and construct a metal observatory so large that Kelly’s efforts would be nullified. He conceded, and turned his efforts instead to drawing more revenue to his creation.

In the 1950s Frank Lamping purchased both and added a gift shop. The towers closed in 2000.

Here’s a cool postcard from the 1930s of the view from Irish Hills Towers, a sweet photo from Matt Callow and a few photos showing different views of the towers. You can see the location on Waymarks.

See this bigger right here and in Daniel’s Buildings set (slideshow).

More Michigan roadside attractions from Michigan in Pictures!