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, 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!

River Raisin Flood in Dundee

Untitled, photo by bohemianrobot.

March means more sun, warmer temps and melting snow. All are pretty welcome, but after a winter with as much snow as we’ve had, they also bring a risk of flood. We do better job of controlling the waters now than we did in March of 1908, but we still see rivers top their banks.

The US Geologic Survey’s Michigan Flood Watch has flood resources for Michigan including this nifty map showing currently flooded rivers and those at risk.

See this photo of the Dundee Mill bigger right here. You can check out more shots of the flooded River Raisin in bohemianrobot’s flood slideshow and in from other Flickr members and see other Michigan flood photos in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr.

Stay dry!

Royal Oak, Michigan

Royal Oak, Michigan

Royal Oak, Michigan, photo by paulhitz.

Be sure to check Paul’s photo out bigger and see more of Royal Oak photos in his slideshow. You can also check out about 400 more Royal Oak photos from the Absolute Michigan pool.

On their History page, the City of Royal Oak explains that:

In 1819, Michigan Gov. Lewis Cass and several companions set out on an exploration of Michigan territory to disprove land surveyors’ claims that the territory was swampy and uninhabitable. The beginning of their journey seemed to support those claims until they reached a desirable area of higher ground near the intersections of Main, Rochester and Crooks Roads. Here they encountered a stately oak tree with a trunk considerably wider than most other oaks. Its large branches reminded Cass of the legend of the royal oak tree, under which King Charles II of England took sanctuary from enemy forces in 1660. Cass and his companions christened the tree, the “Royal Oak.” And so Royal Oak received its name.

As early as 1891, when Royal Oak was a small village, there were only a few hundred residents. In the 10-year span from 1900 to 1910 the population grew to over 1,000. By the time Royal Oak was incorporated as a city in 1921, the population had exploded to over 6,000. This was due in large part to new jobs created by the booming auto industry. The development of the super highway, Woodward Avenue, led to greater population expansion. Woodward Avenue replaced the old Indian road, Saginaw Trail, as the connection between Detroit, Pontiac, Flint and Saginaw, making Royal Oak more accessible. Today, the 28-mile Woodward Avenue (M-1), bridging 10 communities from the Detroit River north to downtown Pontiac, holds the honorary designation of Michigan Heritage Route. The designation was awarded because of the historical and cultural significance of some 350 sites along Woodward Avenue, including 42 historic churches.

You can get tons more great Royal Oak history & historic photos from Historic Royal Oak by Dr. David G. Penney.

Wikipedia’s Royal Oak entry says that as of 2000, the city had a total population of 60,062, making it Michigan’s 18th largest city. Michigan in Pictures has a lot of photos that involve Royal Oak (apparently there’s some sort of Photographic Guild that exhibits there).

Check out Royal Oak on Absolute Michigan’s Michigan Map.

The Polar Express and Pere Marquette 1225

The Pere Marquette #1225 (Christmas train 12/25) One of the Last!!!

The Pere Marquette #1225 (Christmas train 12/25) One of the Last!!!, photo by David Sr. – Lapeer Photography.

A lot of times I think I’ve written about something on Michigan in Pictures and then when I look, it turns out I haven’t.

Such is the case with the Pere Marquette #1225 Christmas train. David writes that this train was used as the model for the train in the animated movie “The Polar Express” with Tom Hanks (view trailer on YouTube). Wikipedia explains:

The steam locomotive that pulls the Polar Express is modeled after an actual locomotive that is on display at the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Michigan. The Pere Marquette 1225 Berkshire-type (2-8-4), built in 1941 at the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, OH, was part of the Pere Marquette Railway system before being decommissioned in 1951. Slated for scrapping, it was acquired by Michigan State University (MSU) in 1957 and exhibited on campus.

In 1971, MSU steam enthusiasts commenced the formidable task of restoring the mighty locomotive to operating condition. Restoration was substantially completed in 1985, and in 1988, number 1225 started pulling excursion trains in the Owosso area and around Michigan. The locomotive has been listed on the United States National Register of Historical Places.

In the film, artistic liberty is taken with the appearance of the locomotive and its tender, both being made to seem even more massive than the 794,500 pound (361,136 kilogram) original. Many of the train’s sound effects, such as the whistle blowing and steam exhausting, were created from live sampling of number 1225 while in operation.

Learn more about the train and see it in action at The Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso. See it bigger along with other views of Michigan in David’s Michigan slideshow (view set) and see more photos of the Pere Marquette 1225 in the 1225 Michigan slideshow (really a treat!)

The movie was based on the Caldecott Medal winning book The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Like the movie, it’s set partially in Van Allsburg’s hometown, Grand Rapids.