Tornado sirens blared for nearly 30 minutes last night as a fast-moving storm brought lightning, rain and possibly tornadoes to Lowell.
The severe weather came upon the area quickly with an emergency broadcast alert noting the storm was moving east at a rate of 55 miles per hour. The National Weather Service pushed through a tornado warning alert to mobile phones at 7:58pm, and meteorologists have said radar indicates one or more tornadoes may have touched down in the area. However, it will take some time before an official determination is made about if and where a tornado was present.
In the meantime, a survey of the area and reports from Lowell’s First Look readers indicate the storm’s worst damage locally extends from Vergennes and Bennett Streets near Parnell Avenue, down and along Foreman Street and Gee Drive, through the Valley Vista neighborhood and fairgrounds and into Lowell Charter Township near Lowell View Avenue.
Consumers Energy says it may take a day or two to restore power to all its customers, and a handful of Lowell Light & Power customers are also without electricity. City Manager Mike Burns notes the Valley Vista neighborhood was without power when he was surveying the damage last night at 10pm, but it has since been restored.
Steve Donkersloot, general manager for Lowell Light & Power, says his crews were out until 4am working to restore power. They were back to work at noon and are expected to finish repairing damaged infrastructure on Gee Drive shortly. Overall, he says about 6-7% of Lowell Light & Power customers lost service at some point, but power should be fully restored later today. About a dozen customers have electrical issues at their homes which means they need to wait for an electrician to make repairs before they can be safely reconnected. “Most of our customers did not have an interruption in service,” Donkersloot notes.
Note: Because of a downed line, Gee Drive is completely closed to traffic until later in the afternoon on September 12, 2019.
City residents should also know that Department of Public Works employees will be moving through town with a rented chipper to help clear debris from the roads and right of way. If you have fallen limbs in your yard, you can stack them neatly near (not in) the road with cut ends in the same direction. DPW won’t be cutting trees from private property, and they cannot chip anything larger than 4-6 inches. The crew expects to offer this service today and tomorrow, September 12 and 13. More details can be found on the City of Lowell Facebook page.
As for the damage, here’s what Lowell looked like this morning:
Recreation Park — home to the Kent County Youth Fair — saw a number of its trees lose limbs.
The main entrance to the park was blocked by several split trees. Across the road, there were a number of damaged trees along S. Hudson Street. It also appeared there were downed trees and a downed line at the southwest corner of Hudson and Bowes Road.
There was also some other minor damage in the park. We hope this was unoccupied at the time of the storm.
Across the street, Senior Neighbors/Gilda’s Club lost part of one of their trees as well.
Many roadways this morning looked like the building’s parking lot with twigs and leaves scattered everywhere.
On Main Street, a big tree came down near N. Center Street.
Back in Valley Vista, there was a line down at the corner of Church and Sibley Streets. As of 2:30pm on Thursday, Donkersloot said there were about 8-9 outages in the city affecting one or two customers each.
Tree limbs were also down in some yards in the neighborhood.
Jodi Callihan shared photos of damage on Jane Ellen Dr. in the Valley Vista neighborhood.
While broken limbs fill the yard, the house appears to have escaped any significant damage.
Along Foreman Street, Cherry Creek Elementary School lost a large section of one of its trees.
In Vergennes Township, this utility pole near the corner of Vergennes Street and Parnell Avenue sustained damage.
We saw several large trees down on Bennett and Vergennes Streets, including this one at Meadowview Farms.
The Bennett Street sign seemed to take a beating too. The sign isn’t the only thing that got twisted up in last night’s storm either. Some of the damage on Vergennes Street, particularly on a property near the Riverside Fellowship Church, appears to our inexpert eye to be consistent with rotating, rather than straight-line, winds.
Where were you when the tornado sirens went off last night? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
Note: This article was updated at 12:36pm on September 12 to add photos of damage on Jane Ellen Drive.
Note: This article was updated at 2:33pm on September 12 to add further information from Lowell Light & Power.