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High Winds Result In Massive Power Outages

Mar 9, 2017

Credit Peter O'Connor / https://www.flickr.com/photos/anemoneprojectors/10624839095

Nearly a million Michigan residents lost power in yesterday’s wind storm.  At its peak, DTE Energy reported 700,000 customers without electricity in southeast Michigan. 

290,000 Consumers Energy customers went dark in the southeast and south central parts of the state.  The winds died down mid-evening Wednesday, and, as of early Thursday morning , DTE had the number down to about 670,000, and Consumers Energy down to 210,000.  It may take into Sunday before all power is restored. 

DTE Energy crews are now on 16-hour shifts, and crews from four other states will be lending a helping hand in the restoration efforts. 

Wind gusts reached as high as 68 miles per hour at Detroit Metro Airport.  Gusts as high as 69-miles per hour at Willow Run Airport caused a near tragedy involving the University of Michigan basketball team.  The Wolverines were on a chartered jet, and high winds forced an aborted take-off, and the plane slid off the runway and went through a fence.  Fortunately, no injuries were reported. 

There are reports of uprooted trees throughout the region.  Eastern Michigan University alone saw the high winds take down nine trees on campus.  Weather officials say the wet and mild winter has made the soil soggy and loose and that contributed to the number of downed trees in Washtenaw and surrounding counties Wednesday. 

The high winds, falling limbs, and uprooted trees also caused property damage throughout the region.  Assessments will be taking place for the next several days in Washtenaw County and the rest of Southeast Michigan. 

Here is the formal press release from DTE Energy this morning: 

DTE Energy Storm Update

As of 5 a.m. Thursday, more than 700­,000 DTE Energy customers have been impacted and more than 670,000 customers remain without power due to severe winds blowing through its Southeast Michigan service territory. This is the largest weather event in DTE history. The outages are widespread across the region, with the hardest hit areas in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties.

Throughout the day, winds gusts over 60 mph caused extensive tree damage, resulting in more than 3,000 downed power lines so far. Due to the unusually warm weather this winter, as well as significant rainfall, the ground is very soft and saturated. That, combined with the high winds, caused trees to uproot, falling onto DTE’s poles and power lines, resulting in widespread outages.

The priority of our crews is to first eliminate downed power lines to ensure the safety of the public. Restoration estimates are currently unavailable. DTE expects to have restoration estimates today, after crews have assessed the damage overnight. DTE recognizes this event will be difficult for our customers and we ask for your ongoing patience.

DTE crews continue to work 16-hour shifts around the clock to restore power, and additional crews from Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, New York and Pennsylvania will be in Michigan on this morning to assist.

Safety is always a priority. Customers should stay at least 20 feet away from all power lines and anything they may contact, and consider them live. They are extremely dangerous. Treat every downed power line as if it is energized. Customers should also heed the warning of yellow caution tape, which indicates there is a downed power line in the area. DO NOT CROSS YELLOW CAUTION TAPE.

Customers have three ways to contact DTE during an outage. Customers can report an outage, check on the status of an outage and view an outage map from their smart phones using the DTE Energy Mobile App, which is available free of charge from the Apple Store or Google Play. DTE encourages customers to use the website at dteenergy.com as well. Customers can also call DTE at 800-477-4747 to report power outages or downed lines.

Storm Tips:

·        Never drive across a downed power line. If a power line falls on your vehicle, remain inside until help arrives.

·        Always operate generators outdoors to avoid dangerous buildup of toxic fumes.

·        Turn off or unplug all appliances to prevent an electrical overload when power is restored. Leave one light switch on to indicate when power is restored.

·        Don’t open refrigerators or freezers more than absolutely necessary. A closed refrigerator will stay cold for 12 hours. Kept closed, a well-filled freezer will preserve food for two days.

·        If a customer is elderly or has a medical condition that would be adversely impacted by a power outage, they should try to make alternative accommodations with family or friends.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu