The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 5, 2001 - 9A
High winds cut short annual Mackinac Bridge walk
ST IGNACE (AP) - In 31 years of
trekking across the Mackinac Bridge on
Labor Day, George and Veronica Matar-
we had seen some rotten weather. But
Monday's winds, so fierce they cut the
k short, were a first.
"I've seen it cold, I've seen it rainy,
but I've never seen anything like this,"
George Matarwe said midway across
the 5-mile-long span linking Michigan's
two peninsulas, straining to be heard
over the roar.
Neither had Hank Lotoszinski, execu-
tive secretary of the Mackinac Bridge
Authority. With gusts at times exceed-
ing 40 mph, he delayed the scheduled 7
am. start by 50 minutes, then closed the
*ge to new walkers at 9 a.m. Vehicu-
lar traffic continued.
Lotoszinski estimated that more than
30,000 people got across - roughly
half as many as usual. Walkers usually
can start as late as I11a.m.
"I'm guessing this is the shortest
we've ever had by far, Lotoszinski said.
He said he knew of no other occasion
"I've seen it cold, I've seen it rainy, but
I've never seen anythin lie this "
- George Matarwe
Participant in Monday's Mackinac Bridge walk
when weather had forced a late start
since the yearly ritual began after the
bridge's completion in 1957. It has been
stopped early before, however.
"I know there were some unhappy
people, but everybody got across safely,
and that has to be our primary concern,"
Among those who missed out was
Christine Young, who stood with a
group of fellow Unionville residents
near the toll booth just north of the
bridge. "We've lived here all our lives
and never walked the bridge," Young
said. "Our sons finally got old enough to
decide they wanted to, so we decide to
do it, and now here we are. ... It's very
Those who did make it clutched hats
and jackets under a gray sky as they
trudged along the roadway, which rises
200 feet above the Straits of Mackinac
at midpoint. "I figure if I can make it
across the bridge, I'm in pretty good
physical condition," said Matarwe, 54,
of Clinton Township.
Linda Ketchapaw of Grand Rapids,
striding briskly with husband John, was
resigned to making poor time: "We've
done this in an hour flat, but I don't
think we will today."
Police boats heaved up and down in
the choppy waters of the straits, where
lakes Huron and Michigan converge. A
courageous pilot flew overhead, his
plane pulling a sign advertising a vaca-
tion home sale.
Gov. John Engler, who has led the
walk I1 consecutive years, wisely kept
it short as he addressed the restless
crowd after the go-ahead was finally
issued. "You'd think Congress was in
session or something, with all that
wind," he joked.
As usual, he was joined by wife
Michelle and 6-year-old daughters Han-
nah, Madeleine and Margaret. Engler
noted proudly that Margaret walked the
entire distance for the first time; her sis-
ters rode part way. "It's a historic day"
Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus joined the
walk for the first time, yet another sign
- if any was needed - that he'll run
for governor next year. He has yet to
formally declare his candidacy but is
widely seen as front-runner for the GOP
nomination. "Actually, I kind of like the
wind. Keeps it cool and comfortable,"
said Posthumus, wearing khaki trousers
and a dark blue windbreaker. "I look
forward to coming back again."
Some of the estimated 30,000 participants cross the five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge
on Monday before high winds prevented more people from joining the annual walk.
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