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Emergency management monitoring erosion, flooding and power outages during spring storm

Posted at 6:29 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 18:52:48-04

West Michigan is getting hit with a round of nasty weather Monday — with much cooler temperatures, rain and possible wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour.

Not only are emergency management crews concerned about possible power outages, many are still battling erosion along the lakeshore.

Ottawa County Emergency Management Director Nick Bonstell said the erosion isn’t a situation that’s going away anytime soon.

“Over the last month, we've really been focused on our COVID-19 response, but the lakeshore definitely hasn't taken a break by any means," he said.

Bonstell said on stormy days, they have a number of things to keep in mind.

“You’ve got erosion, flooding and power outages, all coming from one single event,” he said.

In fact, these brief storms can cause a serious amount of damage.

“Let’s say you're on the receiving end of the 15-feet waves and that wind is coming directly at your property and you already have unstable bluff and no protection, there's no doubt you could lose 10-20 feet of property," he said.

Emergency management departments and all their workers are considered essential under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, and Ottawa County crews are still hard at work on some projects, just not during stormy conditions.

“Part of the way they do this work is by putting equipment near the waters edge, and obviously, with 10-11 foot waves, it's hard to run heavy equipment down to the water's edge,” Bonstell said.

While no properties in Ottawa County are in danger right now, Bonstell added that they’ll be able to respond if they need to.

“If something is a critical need, essential to safety, life and health, if you have a structure that's getting ready to go over the edge or has a chance that it would actually collapse, you're putting the safety and health of the first responders who are coming to that scene in context," he said.

"So to us, that would be a high-priority issue that we would definitely give the okay to go ahead and do the work for sure."

Bonstell said as soon as the storm is over, crews and homeowners will be back at work to secure the shoreline and their properties.

He is also working with Michigan State Police to coordinate a flight over the lakeshore to get a better view of the overall erosion impact.