Windy City: Mighty gusts bring down bricks, trees, power lines

Published 7:29 am Friday, March 5, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Extremely high winds created some problems in downtown Niles on Friday morning.
The high wind gusts of about 40 mph caused the scaffolding, used by Mark 1 for the downtown restoration, to become unstable. This caused Niles city officials to become concerned about safety.
Those concerns led to the closing of the 200 block of Main Street from about 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Niles City Police and Fire Departments were on scene to close the road down with the assistance of city's engineering department.
Niles City Fire Chief Larry Lamb said the concern was the scaffolding could possibly be blown into the road and cause harm to pedestrians or vehicles passing by.
Lisa Croteau, director of the Niles Downtown Development Authority, said the decision to close the road was just a precaution to ensure the public's safety.
Lamb said the public safety departments, with help from construction workers inside the building, temporarily secured the scaffolding with heavy duty ropes until Mark 1 Restoration employees arrived.
Croteau said the problem was brought to their attention by a pedestrian who noticed that the scaffolding was wobbling back and forth. The pedestrian also noticed the high winds had caused a brick to come loose and fall to the ground at the old Goodwill building, at 109 E. Main St.
Neil Coulston, public works director for the City of Niles, said the city also closed down a portion of the sidewalk on the 100 block of Main Street to protect the public from the possibility of falling debris.
He said the aluminum cap on top of the Goodwill building was flapping up and down in the wind and caused some small and large pieces of brick to be blown down to the sidewalk.
Mark 1 Restoration, based in Howell, works four 10-hour shifts during the week, so the company's workers were not in Niles on Friday. Croteau said Mark 1 was called on Friday morning to send out company representatives to handle the problem with the scaffolding.
Coulston said two Mark 1 employees arrived at 2:30 p.m. and removed the plastic covering, which was acting like a sail to the strong winds. They also secured all of the planks on the scaffolding and removed any debris that could possibly be blown off.
City officials then felt comfortable to reopen Main Street at about 3:30 p.m.
Coulston also said the wind gusts had also caused four trees to be blown down on Friday afteroon within Niles City limits including one on the corner of Ninth and Oak Street and one in the 1600 block of Sycamore Street.
James Lehmkuhl, manager of the City of Niles Utilities Department, said he did not know of any significant interruptions of power within the city caused by the high winds.
Both Lehmkuhl and Coulston said it helps that there is hardly any foliage on the trees. This creates less wind resistance on the trees, which means there is less of a chance for the trees to become uprooted.
The wind gusts did cause power to go out on the corner of S. 11th and Bertrand Road in Niles.
A power line was blown down and the Burger King, at 2701 S. 11th St., was without power from about 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Manager Melissa Salinas had to stay with the fast food restaurant until power was restored. She became worried that the food might spoil when American Electric Power officials told her power may not be restored until Saturday, but was relieved when it finally came back on Friday afternoon.
According to a National Weather Service forecast, the wind gusts are supposed to die down over the weekend, but unfortunately so are the temperatures. There is a chance of snow on both Saturday and Sunday.