8.3.15:   Flags lowered to honor former Sen. Harry Gast



LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder has ordered that flags in the state Capitol complex be lowered in honor of former state Sen. Harry Gast.

Gast died Thursday at age 94.

Snyder says U.S. and Michigan flags will be lowered to half-staff on Monday.

Gast, a Republican from St. Joseph, served 32 years in the Legislature before leaving in 2002. He was Senate Appropriations Committee chairman for 18 years.

Snyder says Gast “reminds us all of the value of public service” and embodied “citizenship and problem-solving.”




8.3.15:  Power should be restored by later tonight


Restoration efforts are ramping up in the wake of Sunday’s powerful storms.

At one point more than 130,000 Consumers Energy customers were impacted by Sunday’s severe weather.

Crews have been busy assessing damage and making initial repairs where possible.  They have mobilized all available crews to get the power restored as quickly and safely as they can.

Storm damage appeared to be greatest in Northwest Michigan, especially in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties.

Early this morning there were still 11,000 in Kent County, 4,700 in Muskegon County, and 2,700 in Ottawa County without service.

Crews are hoping to get all power restored by later tonight.



8.3.15:  Sunday storms prove to be deadly


— A sudden storm that brought high winds, hail and rain to a Chicago suburb collapsed a tent, where people attending a festival had sought shelter, killing one person. More than a dozen were injured Sunday. The tent was ripped from its moorings and fell on some people. The annual celebration known as the Prairie Fest, is a four-day event with food, live music, a carnival and fireworks.


The Sunday storm also impacted Michigan.


Officials say storms carrying damaging winds and heavy rain spawned at least one tornado in Michigan and knocked out power to more than 200,000 homes and businesses.

The National Weather Service says a tornado hit the Huron County community of Owendale about 6:40 p.m. Sunday, damaging the roof of a school and knocking down trees. Meteorologist Steven Freitag says there were no reports of injuries.

In the northern Lower Peninsula, storms started around 10 a.m. Sunday and lasted for about 12 hours. The Leelanau County community of Glen Arbor was hit hard by winds. Power outages were reported in Traverse City, where a free outdoor movie was scratched.


On Sunday, the Mackinac Bridge connecting Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas was temporarily closed at one point as winds hit 65 mph.

Heavy rains as part of severe thunderstorms left roads slick and caused flash flooding in parts of Michigan.

Meteorologist Steven Freitag at the National Weather Service office in Oakland County’s White Lake Township says it had been fairly dry for the month leading up the storms, leaving the ground able to absorb much of the rainfall Sunday and early Monday.

Freitag says more than 2 inches fell in places.

The Detroit News reports that the northbound Interstate 75 ramp at eastbound I-94 in Detroit was closed early Monday due to flooding, as was southbound I-75 ramp to eastbound I-94. About a foot of water accumulated on the northbound ramp.

Spinout crashes were reported on rain-covered roads. Some traffic lights were out due to power outages from the storm.



7.31.15:  Shoppers head to newest Tanger Outlet Mall



Thousands of shoppers are headed to the grand opening of the Tanger Outlet Mall off US-131 near Byron Center today.


Around 75 stores will open and more are expected next year.

Shoppers began lining up early to take advantage of the sales and added gift cards and discount coupons.


There will be extra police on hand to help direct traffic in the area.

7.31.15:  Crews in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula battle 70-acre wildfire


HUMBOLDT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Crews in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are battling a 70-acre wildfire that’s been fueled by warm weather and strong winds.

The state Department of Natural Resources says the “County Road 601″ wildfire was about 60 percent contained late Thursday and crews planned to return to the scene on Friday.

No injuries have been reported from the fire, which was spotted Thursday afternoon in Marquette County’s Humboldt Township. The fire started in an area where logging had occurred last winter and loggers had begun working this week to test a newly built road.

The cause wasn’t immediately known.

The DNR’s incident commander Pete Glover says: “stumps, debris and stacked piles of logs made for good fuel for the fire, but made it more difficult for firefighters working to build a containment line.”



7.31.15: Michigan officials seek to replace election equipment


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan has taken the first steps toward replacing election equipment used in the state’s 4,800 voting precincts that is more than 10 years old.

According to a news release from Secretary of State Ruth Johnson on Thursday, the state is looking for proposals from vendors who offer upgraded voting systems that use a paper ballot. Proposals are due by early September.

Johnson said local clerks have reported that the current equipment is prone to breaking down due to its age.

The news release says that after contracts for new equipment are awarded, some counties may be able to receive new equipment for the August 2016 primary election. The state hopes to roll out the new equipment statewide no later than August 2018.



7.31.15:  Prisoner knocks guard unconscious with padlock in Ionia


IONIA, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say a prisoner at Michigan Reformatory in Ionia hit a corrections officer in the back of the head with a padlock, knocking him unconscious.

The attack happened about 10 a.m. Thursday.

Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz says the guard regained consciousness and was taken to a hospital for medical evaluation.

Gautz says the prison placed the suspect in segregation while it investigates.



7.31.15:  Former longtime Michigan lawmaker Harry Gast dies at 94


ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) — Former longtime Michigan lawmaker Harry Gast, a Republican who served for 32 years and led the state Senate’s budget committee for 18 years, has died. He was 94.

The Starks and Menchinger Chapel says Gast died Thursday at his St. Joseph home.

The lifelong farmer was known for delivering budget news bluntly to legislators and telling them what they didn’t want to hear.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, a former state senator, calls Gast a “tremendous friend and colleague as well as a true fighter and leader.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Al Pscholka says Gast was a “legend” and “giant who cast a large shadow over Lansing and all of Southwest Michigan.”

A funeral and burial will be held Monday. Gast is survived by his wife, three children and many grandchildren.



7.30.15:  Election board to consider business tax, sick day proposals


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s election board is planning to consider three newly announced ballot drives related to business taxes, sick days and voting by mail.

Supporters hope the Board of State Canvassers approves their petition forms on Thursday. Then they can start collecting hundreds of thousands of voter signatures needed to send their proposals to lawmakers and likely statewide votes in 2016.

Some labor unions are backing an initiative to increase the 6 percent corporate income tax to 11 percent to raise more money for road improvements. A measure backed by labor and community organizers would require that workers receive one hour of paid leave for every 30 worked.

A proposed constitutional amendment would move Michigan to mail-in ballots for local, state and national elections.

Three other states rely entirely on mail-in ballots.



7.30.15:  Judge: Land owners can’t keep public off Lake Michigan beach



INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A northern Indiana judge has ruled that property owners along Indiana’s short stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline cannot deny the public access to that space.

Long Beach property owner Don Gunderson sued Indiana and the state Department of Natural Resources last year, arguing that his lakefront property along Indiana’s 45-mile shoreline extends to the water’s edge in the exclusive community 30 miles east of Chicago.

He argued that his property’s deed gave him “complete and exclusive ownership” of the adjoining beach.

But LaPorte Superior Court Judge Richard Stalbrink Junior recently ruled against him. He found that Gunderson and other landowners can’t deny the public access to the beach below its ordinary high-water mark. That area encompasses much of the beachfront.

Gunderson’s attorney had no comment Wednesday on the ruling.