The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Marenisco recovers from severe storm


July 29, 2021

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

WORKING ON Tuesday to lift pieces of a massive tree at Marenisco Township Cemetery is Marvin Ceplina. Watching, from left, are Dave Bledsoe and Missy Alexandroni. Stan Cole Jr. is hidden in the brush, using a chain saw to help facilitate removal of the tree that fell during a late Monday evening storm.


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Marenisco - Clean-up continues in Marenisco after Monday night weather events took the town literally by storm.

Marenisco Township Supervisor Bruce Mahler said in a Wednesday morning phone call that the thunderstorm had not been classified as a tornado, but rather as "the beginnings" of one.

That's the word from the National Weather Service in Marquette, whose representatives concluded that straight-line winds had moved through the "downtown" area of the unincorporated community, while microbursts had occurred on land south of there.

The NWS defines a straight-line wind as any thunderstorm wind not associated with rotation, whereas a microburst is a "localized column of sinking air (downdraft)," usually 2.5 miles or under in diameter.

"The main thing is that nobody got hurt," said Mahler. "We just got power back last night at about 9:30 p.m." He added that the Marenisco Volunteer Fire Department had handled a late Tuesday fire that had occurred north of town because of a tree that fell on a powerline.

On Tuesday, Mike Ceplina said he had been sitting in a vehicle just outside of town when the storm hit the previous night.

"It sounded like a freight train," he said while taking a lunch break in the Marenisco Town Hall, where all workers were welcome to take respite throughout the day.

On Tuesday afternoon, the connection from U.S. 2 to M-64/Fair Avenue was guarded by law enforcement, and drivers were redirected to use Memorial Drive to enter Marenisco.

The detour went past Marenisco Township Cemetery, where a massive tree had been uprooted and was lying next to the roadside. Numerous flower pots were overturned, and other graveside decorations were tossed across the cemetery lawn, with some of them having been stopped by the surrounding fence line.

Main Street was closed with numerous tree service trucks parked there. Meanwhile, one tree-removal specialist scampered precariously upon the roof of St. Catherine Catholic Church to address a huge tree that had landed there, creating a hole.

Down the same street, drivers used skid steer equipment to transport freshly-cut log parts to various roadside piles.

"It went right down Main Street," said one property owner there who asked not to be identified. "My property is so trashed. I don't know how many trees I lost."

Across from the town hall, a team of people of all ages worked to clear tree waste from behind Earla's Restaurant, which faces Fair Avenue at the front and Hall Street at the back.

Damage had occurred along the entire block, but Mahler said volunteers and other officials had been working since 6 a.m. to clear the resulting mess.

"Honest to God, it's unbelievable how fast they cleaned that up," said Township Clerk Donna Kenney, who used her cell phone to show "before" photos of early morning damage.

"It's just amazing what these guys are doing," said Public Works Director Dean Hand, who said multiple trees had come down.

In many cases, Hand said, "If it had been just a few feet over, it would have been a building wiped out. It could have been a lot worse."

Mahler said that Dunbar's Fabrication, on the corner of Mill Street and Fair Avenue, probably sustained the worst damage from the storm. Pieces from the building lay strewn next to it while part of its roof was curled up.

Behind the building, next to the ORV and snowmobile trail that crosses through the region, was an uprooted and broken sign from Two Fat Guys Bar & Grill, which is across the street from Dunbar's.

Despite the Dunbar business taking what Mahler called "a huge hit," he noted that owners Jim Dunbar and his grandson, Derrick Dunbar, went with him on Tuesday to verify that recent work on the Presque Isle Dam was still intact.

He said help came from numerous sources, including from his own neighbor, Lt. Don Horn, commander of the Michigan State Police Post 86 in Wakefield.

"Don was out all night with me, making sure we had everything we need," he said, adding that additional help came from the Gogebic County Sheriff's Office, the Gogebic County Road Commission, both of Marenisco Township's volunteer fire departments, Marenisco Police Chief James Webber, and residents from Marenisco and Wakefield.

Mahler and other officials commended those with experience with logging and operating heavy machinery who volunteered their expertise in removing trees and debris.

When Mahler saw a parade of Xcel Energy vehicles also move down Mill Street on Tuesday afternoon, he prepared to take remaining bag lunches to those workers and any others who had not yet stopped at the town hall.

"We still have general clean-up," said the supervisor on Wednesday morning, but he was in good spirits and clearly proud of his community.

Moreover, he claimed, "We suffered something bad, but on the other hand, it brought out the best in everybody."

He added, "We're Yooper strong," and noted of the 2018 state shut-down of Ojibway Correctional Facility, "We started that when the prison closed."

Hence, he emphasized of the general status in his region, "We're good."

Hand, the Public Works lead, asked that property owners leave brush by the roadside, but not under power lines.

Regarding the vast amount of wood being cut and gathered, Mahler said that some of it will be repurposed. "There's going to be a lot of it," he said. "I'm sure a lot of this is going to be cut into firewood."

He also pointed out that Marenisco Township has a designated spot for ongoing brush collection in any given year, with each season ending in a related bonfire.

"It's probably going to be bigger this year," he concluded.


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