Gov. declares state of emergency in Grand Rapids after storm

    Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids | Wikimedia Commons

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued her fourth executive order since taking office and declared a state of emergency for the city of Grand Rapids after 42,000 lost power due to a winter storm.

    Gretchen Whitmer

    Whitmer issued the order late Saturday after the city requested assistance on late Saturday afternoon due to severe winter weather that began on Thursday resulted in widespread extended power outages and hazardous driving conditions. The storm knocked down trees and power lines across the city of Grand Rapids. As a result, the city opened its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to manage the response.

    “Our first responders and volunteer services continue to work diligently to protect public health and safety, while utility workers continue efforts to restore power to the residents of Grand Rapids and I thank all of them for their work,” Whitmer said. “This declaration will ensure state assistance is available to help the community with recovery efforts.”

    Whitmer’s first executive order was on Jan. 29 declaring a state of emergency for the entire state of Michigan due to the severe cold that topped out at 40 degree wind chills in some areas. The extreme weather resulted in school closures for almost the entire week in many communities. And state government shut down for three days that week.

    Rosalynn Bliss

    By declaring a state of emergency, Whitmer has made available all state resources in cooperation with local response and recovery efforts in the designated area. The declaration authorizes the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) to coordinate state efforts above and beyond what MSP/EMHSD has already been doing in conjunction with local agencies.

    “We are focused on storm cleanup and recovering as quickly as possible,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “Our current services are deployed at full capacity. However, they are not sufficient to meet the significant needs across our city. This has led us to partner with the state to help secure additional resources.”

    The city of Grand Rapids declared a local state of emergency on Saturday, which activates local emergency response and recovery plans. By requesting a governor’s declaration, the county has determined local resources are insufficient to address the situation and state assistance is required to protect the health, safety and property to lessen or avert the threat of a crisis.

    “Throughout this incident, we have worked closely with our local emergency management partners in the city of Grand Rapids,” said Capt. Emmitt McGowan, deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “Our staff will continue to partner with the affected community to make certain they receive needed disaster assistance.”

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    Susan J. Demas is a 17-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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