Road commission manager shares experience of storm aftermath
LAKE COUNTY — With the Lake County Road Commission working around the clock clearing storm damage even prior to last Tuesday's storm event, local officials are crediting the workers for helping cleanup go as smoothly as possible.
"The Lake County Road Commission and their manager Steve Leonard are to be applauded for their nonstop services and efforts," said Lake County Emergency Manager Don Divis. “Steve Leonard was here throughout the whole deal and he stayed up the whole first night. The road commission had the biggest drain."
On Tuesday, in a statement to the Star, Leonard said county roads are 95-percent open for travel.
"It took a week just to make travel possible on county roads. There will be weeks of cleanup," he said. "Trees which were weakened from the storm can come down. Now we will go around and clean up where we can and fix washouts on gravel roads. There are a lot of washouts.
"Hopefully this will be declared a natural disaster, because this has taken thousands of dollars out of our road commission budget. If there is no relief, we will have to cut future projects."
Leonard said he mainly orchestrated efforts with power companies, but he gives credit to the road crews and linemen.
"It has been a long few days. The guys have worked extremely hard and I cannot say enough about them. We worked hand-in-hand with the power companies. They were the true heroes and deserve an 'atta boy. We just orchestrated and coordinated with the power company. I stopped cutting to go to meetings with emergency officials and help coordinate," he said.
On Thursday, Leonard got to view the damage throughout the area and surrounding counties from a Michigan State Police helicopter.
"I won't forget the helicopter ride. It was pretty sweet. We left at 10:30 a.m. and arrived back at 4:30 p.m. We went to Oceana County, Mecosta County and other areas. I noticed with the track of the storm, it seemed to bounce around, traveling diagonally southeast and seemed like the storm decided to hang out in Baldwin and Idlewild. Out of all the areas hit, Baldwin and Idlewild was definitely the heart of the damage," he said, adding Idlewild had the most damage, and then downtown Baldwin.
"I am thankful and blessed there were no fatalities. If people see trees in the road, please contact the road commission. We will diligently work with the community as we continue to clean up," he added.