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News and quick-hit commentary from around mid-Michigan ... from the Morning Sun.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A beautiful weekend ahead

The weather forecasters at the National Weather Service offices in Grand Rapids, Gaylord and Marquette say there's a pretty nice Labor Day weekend ahead.
Temperatures are to be near normal, with highs ranging from the mid- to upper 70s to the low 80s by the time Labor Day gets here.
A cold front is expected to move through Upper Michigan Sunday and get to northern Lower Michigan by late Sunday or early Monday. That could bring a chance of rain for the Upper Peninsula Sunday -- and that's something that's desperately needed in the very dry U.P. The forecast for the northern Lower Peninsula lists a chance of showers or thundershowers for Sunday night and Monday -- again, something that the dry forests in that area really need.
By the time the front gets to mid-Michigan, it's likely the dynamics that will produce rain to the north will have fizzled out. The forecast -- at least the current one -- is dry and pleasant.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The competition steps up

It's the week before a holiday, and gas prices are moving completely according to form -- except in the Alma/St. Louis/Ithaca market.
Tuesday morning, Speedway appears to have sent word to most, if not all, of its company-owned stations to raise the price for a gallon on unleaded gas to $3.09. That's totally within its right. A business owner can set the price for a product anywhere the owner wants to set it, and see if a) people still buy it, and b) if the competition decides to follow that price.
In most places, according to the prices on posted on, the competition followed along, at least for Tuesday. Mt. Pleasant prices moved to around $3.09. Midland-area prices, often held up as "at least a dime cheaper than Mt. Pleasant," moved to around $3.09. All up and down U.S. 127 and I-75, Jackson, Clare, Gaylord, it was $3.09. Sault Ste. Marie was $3.07.
Except in Gratiot County. In Ithaca, the B&B markets and Admiral Tobacco stuck it out, posting the lowest gas prices in the state at $2.73 as of late Wednesday morning. Other stations in Alma, St. Louis and Edmore also were below $2.80.
The break-even point for retailers in mid-Michigan appears to be around $2.95.
Will the low prices last? The last report we had had the Speedway stations in Alma at $3.08.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tornado confirmed near Edmore

An irrigation system lies twisted after being hit by strong winds in Home Township Thursday. (National Weather Service photo)

A storm evaluation team from the National Weather Service's Grand Rapids office confirms that a tornado touched down in northwestern Montcalm County Thursday afternoon, damaging buildings and farm equipment but causing no injuries.
Evaluators said a combination of a strong downburst -- the same kind of storm that caused heavy damage in Lake Isabella earlier this summer -- and a tornado rated an EF-1 did the damage.

Numerous oak and maple trees were knocked down around a house on the south side of Cutler Road. (National Weather Service photo)

Two different damage paths were located, each about 100 to 200 yards wide. The first began about a mile west of the intersection of Cutler and Vickeryville roads. The second began near that intersection and extended to near the Montcalm-Isabella county line.

Many trees were uprooted or snapped off. Meteorologists say the damage was consistent with a rating of EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, used to rate the strength of tornadoes. The wind speeds were estimated at 90 to 100 mph.

No one was reported hurt.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Where's my paper?

Wednesday night's intense lightning storm that crossed mid-Michigan knocked out electric service to nearly 13,000 Consumers Energy customers in central Michigan, including the Morning Sun.
The Sun's presses are powered by electricity, so they didn't work. The newspaper still had to be published.
Backup generators provided enough power to allow the newspaper's composing crew to send electronic files of all the pages to our sister newspaper, The Oakland Press in Pontiac, to be printed. The entire press run was trucked back to central Michigan early Thursday, and distribution began at mid-morning.
The staff and management of the Morning Sun thanks all the customers for their understanding.
It was a heck of a storm, wasn't it?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fun at the Clare Fair

Billy Johnson, 9, shows off his prize-winning broiler chicken at the Clare County Fair Tuesday.

The Morning Sun's Sue Field checks out some adorable baby pigmy goats at the fair.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Where am I now?

Traveling on U.S. 127, we've gotten used to watching the mile markers go by. Heading north through Clare County, we see Mile 197, Mile 198, and a short distance from the Roscommon County line,

Mile 199.

Travel one mile farther north, and of course we find

MILE 183??????

Actually, there's a reason for this. It appears to be part of the long-term renumbering of U.S. 27 to U.S. 127, as well as bringing the highway markings along that highway up to 21st century standards.

Limited-access highways are supposed to have mile markers, and interchanges are numbered according to the appropriate mile. The mileage system in Michigan numbers from the western or southern end of the road, or the point where the road enters the state.
The old numbers apparently were based -- vaguely -- on the distance from the Indiana state line along U.S. 27, when that road still existed in Michigan.
But according to the NAVTEQ map server and Google Maps, the distance along I-69 and U.S. 127 -- the old route of U.S. 27 -- from the Indiana line to the Clare-Roscommon line is 190 miles, not 199 miles. Ooops.
U.S. 27 was decommissioned in the state a few years ago and the route renumbered.
Now, the numbers seem to be based somewhat on U.S. 127's mileage. That road enters from Ohio south of Hudson, and is mostly freeway from Jackson north. At least the new miles are closer -- NAVTEQ and Google map the distance along that route from the Michigan-Ohio line to the Clare-Roscommon line at 184 miles. Once the new mile marker's up, it will be Mile 182.
Maybe MDOT has a secret plan to trim two miles off the south end of the road.
The Michigan Department of Transportation's University Region, which includes Ingham and Clinton counties, got their renumbering done first, so sharp-eyed drivers noted that the southern section of the 127 expressway ended at Mile 100. They'd drive the 16 miles of non-freeway divided highway into Gratiot County, and the freeway picked up again -- at Mile 133 on the old system.
Now, the North Region, which begins at Roscommon County, is changing the signs. There's no word on when the Bay Region, which includes Gratiot, Isabella and Clare counties, will follow suit.

So that will leave a confusing
situation for drivers, at least for a while. When a driver calls 9-1-1 and says they are somewhere between Mile 185 (the new one's near Houghton Lake) and Mile 186 (the old one's near Harrison), there's an awful lot of road to cover.

(Photos by Andrew Ranzenberger)

Friday, August 17, 2007

What campers need to know about the fire ban

Department of Natural Resources authorities Friday said that the ban on outdoor burning, enacted by Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, could impact campers visiting state-owned campgrounds and undeveloped areas within state forests, state game areas and state parks.
The governor’s order restricts campfires in campgrounds that do not have on-site management. State forest and state game area campgrounds do not have on-site management, therefore under the ban and campers are not permitted to have campfires at these facilities.
This affects 120 state forest campgrounds, eight state forest trail camps, all state game area campgrounds and the five Presque Isle cabins, the DNR said. Dispersed campers on state forest land may not have campfires.
Most state parks provide on-site management, so campfires are allowed when using metal or masonry fire rings provided by the park. No campfires are allowed at rustic cabin locations and all walk-in campgrounds and walk-in campsites in all state parks and recreation areas.
This includes the walk-in campsites at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Blind Lake at Pinckney Recreation Area and all of Craig Lake State Park. Organization campsites at state parks that are remotely located are also included in the campfire ban.
For more specific information related to organization sites, the DNR is asking campers to call the state park headquarters where the site is located.
The ban does not impact campers’ and day visitors’ use of charcoal grills, propane or liquid-fueled camping stoves.
The DNR cautions all visitors at locations where a campfire is allowed to use safe campfire practices.
Keep your fire small, never leave your fire unattended, always have an adult present and properly put your fire out before leaving the area. Keep a container of water nearby.
Fires are discouraged from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. since daytime temperatures and humidity are more likely to result in hazardous fires.
Further information about the impacts of the burning ban can be answered by contacting the nearest DNR Operations Service Center or state park. Contact numbers can be found on the DNR’s Web site at

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fire weather watch

The National Weather Service in Grand Rapids has issued a fire weather watch,
which will be in effect from Friday afternoon through Friday evening.
High pressure will generate extremely dry conditions in Clare, Isabella, Gratiot and
Montcalm counties, along with the rest of southwestern lower Michigan.
The combination of low dew points, wind gusts up to 25 mph from the northwest,
highs in the upper 70s and very dry vegetation will combine to produce extremely
high fire dangers across the region.
Critical fire weather conditions are forecast to occur.
The state already has banned outdoor burning.

Governor bans outdoor burning

A ban on outdoor burning goes into effect at 4:36 p.m. Friday in Clare, Gratiot, Isabella, Midland, Montcalm and 70 other Michigan counties.
Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm banned outdoor burning due to the extremely high wildfire danger that continues to threaten most of the state. The ban covers most of the Lower Peninsula and all of the Upper Peninsula
The fire ban will remain in effect until conditions change significantly to reduce the risk of fire.
“The persistent drought conditions across Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas, coupled with the hot, dry weather, are creating dangerous conditions for wildfires to occur,” Granholm said. “We are already battling a major wildfire in Luce County, and any open flame is a hazard to our state at this time."
The ban prohibits these acts on forest lands or lands adjacent to forest lands:
• burning of any flammable material, including refuse, brush, stumps, rubbish, grass, stubble, leaves, or crop residue;
• burning materials in a burn barrel;
• pipe, cigar and/or cigarette smoking outdoors adjacent to forest lands, with the exception of places of habitation, authorized and improved campgrounds, or in any automobile or truck; and,
• all campfires except those within containers at public or private campgrounds that have permanent staff on site or at places of habitation.
• Campfires will not be allowed at any state forest campgrounds or other similar unsupervised, rustic campgrounds.

A violation of the burning ban is a misdemeanor. In addition, anyone responsible for starting a wildfire is liable for the cost of suppressing the fire.
The ban does not include charcoal grills or propane or liquid-fueled camping stoves.
“We believe this ban is necessary to protect Michigan’s natural resources and our citizens from the very serious threat of wildfire conditions in the state currently,” said Department of Natural Resources Director Rebecca Humphries. “We urge all citizens to be partners with us in this effort to prevent any new wildfires from occurring in the state. Our resources are stretched thin due to the amount of wildfire activity we are seeing in the state this summer.”
The last time an outdoor burning ban was signed was May 21, 1998, when a similar ban was issued for the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula.
The ban covers these counties: Alcona, Alger, Allegan, Alpena, Antrim, Arenac, Baraga, Barry, Bay, Benzie, Calhoun, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Clare, Clinton, Crawford, Delta, Dickinson, Eaton, Emmet, Genesee, Gladwin, Gogebic, Grand Traverse, Gratiot, Houghton, Huron, Ingham, Ionia, Iosco, Iron, Isabella, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kalkaska, Kent, Keweenaw, Lake, Lapeer, Leelanau, Livingston, Luce, Mackinaw, Macomb, Manistee, Marquette, Mason, Mecosta, Menominee, Midland, Missaukee, Montcalm, Montmorency, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oakland, Oceana, Ogemaw, Ontonagon, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Ottawa, Presque Isle, Roscommon, Saginaw, St Clair, Sanilac, Schoolcraft, Shiawassee, Tuscola, Van Buren, Washtenaw, and Wexford.

CMU struggling with injuries

Just two weeks shy of its season opening football game with Kansas, Central Michigan has been bitten by the injury bug.

Key returning starters like senior linebacker Red Keith are currently hampered by injuries, while the offensive line is down to playing at least two redshirt freshmen.

How has all of this affected the Chippewas, find out in Friday's edition of the Morning Sun.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Football media day

The Central Michigan University football team held it's annual media day at Kelly/Shorts Stadium Wednesday.
First-year head coach Butch Jones held a brief press conference to open up the festivities. From there the defending Mid-American Conference champions dispersed around the stadium for media interviews and photo opportunities. One noticable difference between this year and last was the new scoreboard at the north end of the stadium. The Chippewas were picked to finish second in the MAC West Division in the preseason poll and open the home docket on Sept. 8 against Toledo.
(text by Jim Lahde)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

CMU Men's Basketball gets verbal for 08-09 season

Zach Saylor, a 6-feet-8, 220 pound forward from Lansing Waverly High School made a verbal commitment to Central Michigan University Tuesday.

Saylor will join the Chippewas for the 2008-09 season, and is the first to be added to the 08-09 recruiting class.

More information can be found in the Wednesday, Aug. 15 edition of the Morning Sun.

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