LAKEVIEW — Without electricity and with trees power lines laying scattered across yards, roofs and streets, residents of Lakeview worked relentlessly Monday to recover from a powerful weekend storm that left destruction in its path.
High winds Saturday afternoon and evening uprooted hundreds of trees, many of which landed on homes and businesses throughout the community, essentially shutting down the village as residents worked together to clear debris from yards, parking lots, city streets and, in some cases, homes and businesses.
Jennifer Betser and her boyfriend, Henry Donke, were at their residence on 110 North St. when Saturday’s storm came through town. By the time they realized how powerful the storm was, a large boom shook the house as a nearby tree landed on the home.
“We thought it was a tornado ripping apart the house,” Betser said. “But then the sound stopped so we knew it wasn’t that.”
Donke said the sudden shake of the house left the couple in a state of shock, but said they were fortunate that Betser’s three children were not home that evening, as a large branch broke through the roof and landed into one of the children’s rooms.
“We had dead silence for about two seconds, and then we kind of realized what happened,” he said. “Then we saw the dust coming from the bedrooms.”
When Betser’s daughter, Bella Tompkins, 10, returned home, she saw her bedroom destroyed as a large tree limb now occupied the space.
“We’re so lucky the kids weren’t home,” Betser said. “The biggest limb fell right into Bella’s bedroom, right where she would have been.”
The family worked together Monday to begin moving out of the house as chainsaws buzzed away at the large tree that lay on their roof.
For Alan Hammock, who lives at at 904 S. Lincoln Ave., it was about 9:30 p.m. as he was watching the Detroit Tigers play baseball on TV that his house was shaken as well.
“We heard thunder, then we walked into the kitchen, and that’s when it fell on the roof,” he said. “We ended up with four big holes in the roof, but nobody is living upstairs right now, so everyone is OK.”
Hammock said he’s experienced high winds and fallen branches before while living in Lakeview before, but nothing as severe as what happened Saturday when branches from a nearby tree struck through his roof.
Lakeview resident and business owner Steve Davidson said he was driving on Wolverine Boulevard through Rockford when he saw the damage the storm had done to portions of West Michigan. When he arrived at his business, Lakeside Auto Body and Accessories in downtown Lakeview, he realized the storm had worked its way right into town as his roof had been torn to shreds and now lay in an adjacent parking lot.
“The roof, the cement back wall, it all received heavy damage,” he said. “We’re probably looking at $40,000 to $50,000 in damages from the storm.”
Davidson said he hopes he can still operate his business once electrify returns throughout town.
“It’s leaking pretty bad, and theres a lot of work to do, but we have insurance and are getting estimates so I think we’ll be OK,” he said. “We’ve received so much help from the community, people with trucks pulling our roof sheet metal from two blocks away back into the parking lot. It meant a lot to see people reaching out to help us.”
With freezing temperatures and overnight snowfall, the recovery effort wont be any easier as residents continue to pick up the pieces and restore normality to the community.
Power restored, streets open
According to Village Manager James Freed, power has been restored to the village and the only known remaining outages are on the outskirts outside of the village limits.
All local streets that were closed have also been reopened to traffic.
“Consumers energy did a heck of a job,” Freed said. “They sent up three full teams to Lakeview. They worked very fast to get power restored in the village.”
Freed said he was also very impressed by the residents and village employees, who worked through Sunday and Monday to clear brush and remove fallen trees.
“I’m really proud of our Department of Public Works employees and the way they performed,” he said. “We also had several contractors who worked very well for us. We had a number of residents who volunteered to help their neighbors, and that was incredible. It really showed the strength of our community.”
Freed credited the village’s reaction to the storm in thanks to the written emergency services contingency plan set in place.
“Every person on our team knew what they needed to be doing,” he said. “It worked. Everyone followed the written procedures.” It’s a testamate to our staff, subcontractors, and everyone who responded.”