Wild winds cut power, rip school roof; dozens of cows dead

December 16, 2021 GMT

SAND LAKE, Mich. (AP) — Fierce winds scoured Michigan on Thursday, knocking out power for more than 150,000 customers, ripping a roof off a school and contributing to the electrocution of dozens of cows at a dairy farm.

Tim Butler was emotional as he described how his workers escaped after a power pole landed on the milking barn in Newaygo County.

“The parlor was full of dead cows. ... It’s a miracle they got out,” Butler told WOOD-TV.

Wind gusts exceeded 60 mph in western and northern Michigan. The roof at Edgewood Elementary School in Muskegon County was yanked off, though no students were present at the time.

Consumers Energy reported power outages across its western and northern service territory, with more than 2,000 power lines down. The Ottawa County government complex in West Olive, which includes the sheriff’s office, county clerk and a court, lost electricity.

“We’re seeing 100-year-old trees that are being ripped out of the ground,” said LeeRoy Wells Jr., senior vice president of operations.

The utility said full restoration might not occur until Saturday night, partly because winds must drop below 35 mph for crews to safely fix lines.

Traverse City canceled school for the day. Shelters were being set up in several communities.

Butler said at least 70 cows died at his farm. Dozens survived, but their injuries were being evaluated.

“A lot of them are hurt bad,” Butler said.

High schools in the Upper Peninsula canceled some basketball games as rain turned to blowing snow. WLUC-TV lost power for hours before it was restored.