With a blizzard warning in effect and a powerful winter storm moving through Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has activated the State Emergency Operations Center as of 1 p.m. Friday.

According to CNN, at least 15 people have died as the winter storm sweeps across the U.S. As of Christmas Eve morning, more than 1.6 million homes and businesses nationwide were without power.

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Prior to the activation, the State of Michigan had been coordinating with local communities to ensure full staffing of first responders, pre-deployment of utility repair crews, readiness for road crews and availability of warming shelters.

Michigan State Police say the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) activation is the next step to make additional state resources available to support local communities, as necessary.

Gov. Whitmer said,

“Our top priority right now is keeping Michiganders safe. I am grateful to our first responders, road maintenance crews, utility crews and volunteers at warming centers who are working hard to keep people safe and warm. By taking this next step to activate the State Emergency Operations Center, we are making sure that our response is coordinated and that resources are available to impacted communities. We will continue to work with local officials and are prepared to offer the full weight of state resources to respond to the storm.”

Blizzard conditions, power outages, and dangerous driving continue to impact multiple communities throughout Michigan.

On Friday, multiple crashes shut down U.S. 131 in different parts of West Michigan. Around 6p.m. Friday, Michigan State Police shut down M-40 at M-89 to I-196 in Holland  until the dangerous weather subsides.

Officials say throughout the activation, conditions and needs will be continually assessed and appropriate action will be taken as warranted to protect public health and safety.

Due to hazardous road conditions, which can change quickly, Michigan residents are encouraged to avoid non-essential travel.

The blizzard warning remains in effect until 7p.m. Saturday.

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