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Muskegon Heights installs interim police chief

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Muskegon Heights now has a new interim police chief.

Joseph Thomas Jr. was sworn in Monday night.

The city council hired Thomas to serve for several months while the city searches for a permanent chief.

Former Muskegon Heights Police Chief Lynne Gill retired January 5.

Thomas is also retired, last working in the city of Southfield, near Detroit.

Long shifts for plow drivers amid winter storm

WZZM 13's Jon Mills rode along Tuesday as crews tried to reach every street in Muskegon.

"We are getting things cleaned up," said City of Muskegon equipment operator Mike Frey. He's one of the Muskegon plow drivers working long shifts. "This time of the year, you expect to be doing it."

Frey was behind the wheel until midnight Monday battling ice. Lake-effect snow was his challenge Tuesday.

Strong winds are pushing that snow from place to place.  It's impacting visibility for travelers.

Frey says 10 days ago, he was keeping busy at work doing springtime-type maintenance projects. "It has been unique," Frey said of this winter.

He has some advice for travelers sharing the roads with plows: "Be patient, and back off and give us a little distance.  Some people get impatient and crowd in on you, and there are spots behind us [where] the visibility is not that great."

Elderly woman killed in Muskegon house fire

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- A woman in her 70's was killed Monday morning after her house caught fire in Muskegon.

The fire started around 8 a.m. in the 1200 block of Fleming Ave. Firefighters arriving to the scene found the two-story home engulfed in flames. They found 77-year-old Barbara Branyan on the second floor. She died at the scene.

Community tours held at B.C. Cobb Plant

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- The B.C. Cobb Plant has been providing electricity to Michigan residents since 1948 and later this year, electricity will no longer flow out of the plant. 

The public was invited to tour the facility on Saturday before it closes in April.

Consumers Energy representative Roger Morgenstern says the plant will be closing because, "for the benefit of our customers, we have determined we just shouldn't be putting more money into these units that are over 60 years old." 

Tours will continue until 3:40 p.m. Saturday.

Tours Saturday at the soon-to-close Muskegon power plant

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- Consumers Energy will offer limited guided tours of the coal-fired B.C. Cobb plant in Muskegon.  The free tours take place Saturday, January 9, from 8:40 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. Tours start at the former Masonic Temple building on Clay Avenue.  A trolley will run to and from the plant about every 50 minutes.

The plant has generated electricity since 1948.  It will close for good on April 15.  Demolition for most of the facility could take place by the end of 2018.  "We do not want it to linger," said Consumers Energy Senior Public Information Director Roger Morgenstern,

Demolition is likely to start early next year with removal of the 650-foot tall smokestack that is visible from around the city of Muskegon.

Muskegon leaders ask residents to help clear fire hydrants

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- With several inches of snow expected this weekend, the City of Muskegon is asking residents for help keeping fire hydrants clear and accessible.

There are more than 2,000 hydrants in the city, and without help from residents it can take a long time to make sure firefighters can use them.

If a hydrant is covered in snow, firefighters may not be able to find it to save a burning home. They say it doesn't have to be 100 percent clear but needs to be visible and accessible.

Massive road salt pile a reminder of mild winter

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. (WZZM) -- In 2014, the massive road salt pile staged at the Verplank Dock in downtown Muskegon was completely diminished.  This year, the 200,000-pound pile is not going anywhere fast. It's just another sign of the unusually mild winter.

It's perfect conditions for the Muskegon County Road Commission to get a jump on spring projects like removing trees and trimming back limbs. That's what work crews were doing Thursday along Dangl and Sternberg roads in Fruitport Township.

Road commission supervisor Eric Scott says the mild weather is also a time to do vehicle and equipment maintenance.  

So far this winter the road commission has used less than 2,000 tons of road salt, Scott said. "We are less than half of what we used last year at this point."