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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Feb 1, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Appeal curbs heat use by 10 percent in Michigan amid cold

LANSING (AP) — Efforts to conserve heat in Michigan during the extreme cold reduced usage by 10 percent following a fire at a major natural gas facility, stabilizing Consumers Energy's ability to supply houses and other critical buildings, officials said Thursday.

The state's largest supplier of natural gas asked its 1.7 million customers and millions of others to continue to set their thermostats at 65 degrees or lower until midnight Thursday — 62 degrees if they are away from home for more than five hours.

The company first made the request Wednesday afternoon. The state police later sent a late-night emergency alert to the entire Lower Peninsula, after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer consulted with emergency management staff and Consumers Energy leaders.

Auto plants and other big customers shut down or limited operations due to the disruption in supply.

Whitmer said she would ask state regulators to assess the supply and delivery of natural gas, electricity and propane by July 1.

The appeal to reduce heat drew both praise and criticism on social media, with some people saying they were happy to do their part and others expressing frustration — including with the timing of the alert that went to cellphones.

Whitmer defended the move, saying it was "very critical" to act quickly.

Michigan opens forests to people who burn wood to heat homes

LANSING (AP) — The state says people who heat their homes with wood can collect it in publicly managed forests through the weekend.

The state typically requires $20 for a 90-day permit that's good between April and the end of December. But no permit is required through Sunday as Michigan residents cope with extremely cold weather.

The rules for collecting wood can be found at www.Michigan.gov/fuelwood. The collection of wood is limited to within 200 feet of a state forest road. Live trees must be left alone, and no wood can be collected in state parks.

Ed Golder of the Department of Natural Resources said wood for fuel is most plentiful in the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula.

The Census Bureau says 3 percent of Michigan households burn wood for heat, compared to 76 percent with natural gas.

Children, firefighters suffer frostbite during Ionia County house fire

MUIR (AP) — Authorities said children clad only in pajamas and firefighters suffered frostbite while a fire destroyed a mid-Michigan home.

Lyons-Muir Fire Chief Lyndon Randall said the children's mother suffered burns and smoke inhalation before two firefighters pulled her from the home at around 4:45 a.m. Thursday in Muir, about 35 miles east of Grand Rapids.

John Odette, deputy chief of the Ionia Department of Public Safety, told the Grand Rapids Press that the five children were standing in the snow without shoes or socks with an outside temperature 17 degrees below zero.

Medics took the children into vehicles to warm up. They were treated for minor burns and frostbite. Their mother and two other adults were hospitalized with burns. Their names haven't been released.

Randall said several firefighters suffered frostbite to their faces.

Bridge closes in Newaygo County as ice jam raises river

NEWAYGO (AP) — A bridge in a West Michigan community has been closed due to flooding from ice jams on the Muskegon River.

Newaygo County authorities said the ice jam is 17 miles long. The Muskegon River is above flood stage in the city of Newaygo.

The river is full of ice because of extreme cold weather.

People living along the river have been warned to watch for flooding. Even when temperatures rise, the risk of flooding won't diminish because of melting snow and weekend rain.

Mackinac Island opposes installing oil pipeline anchors

MACKINAC ISLAND (AP) — Mackinac Island is challenging a state agency's decision to let the pipeline company Enbridge install anchor supports for its Line 5 oil pipes in the Straits of Mackinac, which links lakes Michigan and Huron.

The state Department of Environmental Quality last year issued two permits to the Canadian company that together allow 70 saddle supports along the dual underwater pipelines.

In a petition to the DEQ, Mackinac Island asks an administrative law judge to invalidate both permits. The city says the anchors essentially would turn the pipelines into an "underwater suspension bridge" with a higher risk of being struck by a vessel anchor, as happened last April.

Mayor Margaret Doud said it's time to shut down Line 5.

Enbridge says the supports are essential to keep the pipes properly supported.

Detroit light rail system temporarily nixed by cold weather

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit's light rail system suspended service for a few hours Thursday due to the extreme cold after streetcar batteries struggled to remain charged.

QLINE spokesman Dan Lijana told the Detroit Free Press in an email that heat was being run at full capacity in the cars at all times and "the level of cold right now drains the batteries rapidly."

He said the cars must stay at stations longer than usual to charge and that affected operations, so officials decided to shut down Thursday morning to charge the cars. The QLINE reported on Twitter around midday Thursday that service had resumed.

The light rail system's route connects the downtown Detroit riverfront to the New Center Area.

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