Source: Sherman Publications

Annual celebration dampened by weather
Ma Nature 1, Fireworks 0

by Don Rush

July 06, 2011

Apparently Mother Nature decided it was a better idea to have Fourth of July fireworks on July 4, rather than July 2.

Regardless, Lake Orion’s annual Independence Day Fireworks show was put on hold due to straight-line winds that brought down trees, power lines, hail and knocked out power for 2,000 DTE Energy customers in Lake Orion and Orion Township. (And, to prove she was in charge, only a few miles away in Waterford, some places didn’t get rain at all).

“In my 30 years here,” Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh said, “I have never seen sheets of water running down the brick wall between the police station and village council chambers. Inside. It did on Saturday. A piece of hail the size of a quarter hit one of my officers (Chris Mires) in the back of the head and almost knocked him to the ground. I saw it, it left a welt.”

It was the perfect storm -- with thousands of extra people in town to watch the fireworks show -- the power outage that resulted from the 6:30 p.m. storm, left traffic lights on M-24 in downtown out, and no flushing toilets.

From The Review’s Facebook account, Heather Fox-Sanchez wrote, “We were having a huge party across from the sand bar. (The) band just played their first song . . .heavy rain and hail pelted everyone. Band’s equipment was soaked and they couldn’t play. No power, on a well -- needless to say no toilet flushing. A hundred people, stuff thrown everywhere, and three full toilets. Nothing like taking pans of lake water up three flights to flush.”

Mariah Hoover commented, “My friends and I were out on the lake for a while before the storm hit, and towards the end of the ride every time I looked to the other side of the lake the clouds looked worse and worse. When it hit, half of the people at the party were just standing at the window and watching the rain on the lake. A few times we couldn’t see any land on the other side of the lake.”

Narsh said the violent storm hit area of Church and Broadway streets pretty hard.

“We had several trees and large branches comedown, some causing damage to homes and cars. at least two local streets were completely closed by large trees across the road, several transformer fires, and live wires down,” he said, adding it was fortunate that the police department was getting ready for shift change.

“We just had the briefing between shifts,” he said. “So, with the extra staff in town for the fireworks and two shifts, we had 25 officers.”

With pedestrians scurrying around town, crossing M-24, Narsh marshalled efforts between Village, Orion Township, and the county road commission -- by way of generator, power was restored to the traffic light at M-24 and Flint Street by about 10:30 that night.

According to John Austerberry of DTE Energy, the storm left 125,000 of its customers without power, mostly in Wayne County. Locally, 2,100 were without -- most power was restored by Sunday. Austerberry said utility crews came up from Ohio and Illinois to help the locals.

From the Lake Orion Fireworks Association’s website, this Saturday (July 9) is the make up date for the $30,000 show.

When the storm blew in, workers for the Wolverine Fireworks company, threw tarps over barges containing the explosives and over the circuit board which controls detonation.

“They were heroic,” Narsh said. “They never left their post. They were holding it down by hand.”

After the storm they attempted to run with the show, but water had short-circuited the ignition systems, causing the show’s eventual cancellation.