Storms, winds knock out power to 420K across Metro Detroit, state

Candice Williams, Steve Pardo and Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Wind gusts topping 75 mph knocked down more than 1,000 power lines throughout the region and electricity to an estimated 420,000 homes and businesses.

The winds, along with hail and heavy rains, swept through Metro Detroit Friday evening and DTE officials caution power may not be restored for days.

DTE Energy reported at least 350,000 customers were without power as of late Friday night. Spokeswoman Erica Donerson said she believes this is the largest number of outages at one time in recent years.

The number of outages is “definitely not where we’re going to end up at the end of the evening,” Donerson said.

The areas with the most customers without power were Farmington, Auburn Hills, Lincoln Park, Gibraltar and Flat Rock.

Additional information on the current storm — including an online power outage map — is available at www.dteenergy.com/map/outage.

Given the size of Friday’s storm some customers could be without power for several days, DTE said on its Web site.

Consumers Energy is reporting 74,000 customers without power in areas across the southern part of the state. The largest pockets of outages were around Kalamazoo and north of Jackson.

Consumers said on their Twitter feed most customers can expect to have power restored by the end of the day Sunday while those in harder hit areas might not get restored until Monday.

Five people were injured in Dearborn Heights when a tent collapsed at a fundraiser at St. Linus Catholic Church.

According to the National Weather Service, wind gusts of up to 50 mph had been recorded, as well as hail up to 1 inch in diameter.

In Paw Paw, storm damage clean up forced organizers to stop the Wine & Harvest Festival. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports power lines and trees were knocked down late Friday afternoon.

WOOD-TV in the Grand Rapids area reported its signal to many viewers was lost when the bad weather went through.

The storms came on the heels of hot, muggy weather, as temperatures soared into the low 90s in Metro Detroit by mid-afternoon.

An additional round of heavy rain is possible during the late evening and overnight hours along and south of the M-59 corridor. But there is help on the horizon. A cold front will move in Saturday, ushering out the heat and humidity and bringing with it temperatures in the 70s.

“We’ll be back down to about 75 on Saturday and will stay that way until the middle of next week,” said NWS meteorologist Dave Thompson. “There a chance of lingering showers Saturday morning, but then they’ll move off to the east and southeast. When the showers get out of here, it will take the heavy humidity with it.”

As a result of an earlier storm that hit the Metro area on Aug. 11, teams were continuing their work to review costs and damages incurred by local governments and some nonprofits after extensive flooding.

State police say their Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, Federal Emergency Management Agency and local officials were working Friday on the effort.

Four teams looked at costs for debris removal, emergency protective measures, damage and other factors. They’re also expected to be in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Last week, six teams visited affected people in neighborhoods.

Northern lower Michigan is recovering from up to 6 inches of rain that soaked the area over 12 hours ending Friday morning in a line from Frankfort across to Tawas and then up to the Mackinac Bridge, bringing the threat of flash flooding.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Ted Rineer, an employee at Black Horse Antiques in downtown Beulah. “We’re right next to Cold Creek, and it’s up about 4 feet, almost ready to come over the top and into the street.

“It’s just roaring where it empties into Crystal Lake.”

According to Rineer, the thunderstorms that drenched the area put on quite a show late Thursday night.

“I saw more lightning and heard more thunder than I have in all my years up here. It was a real butt-kicker.”

The line of thunderstorms rolled in about 1 a.m. and dropped 5 to 6 inches of rain, according to Frank Post, coordinator for the Benzie County Emergency Management department.

“The banks of the rivers are overflowing; there’s just no place for the water to go,” Post said.

According to Post, the problem was especially severe in Honor on the banks of the Platte River.

“They haven’t had any flooded basements but there is standing water in the yards right up to the foundations of the homes,” Post said.

The problem is that the ground is so saturated that it can’t absorb much water, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Rozanski, working out of the Gaylord office.

“We’ve had quite a bit of rain over northern Michigan in the last week, and then in the last six to 12 hours, we received an additional 4 to 6 inches of rain,” Rozanski said.

As if the thunderstorms weren’t enough, they were proceeded by straight line winds that gusted at 80 to 90 mph.

“They knocked down a lot of trees and did some structural damage,” Rozanski said. “But we don’t have any reports of injuries.”

The Noah-like conditions were good for business at Frankfort’s Storm Cloud Brewing Co.

“We had patrons come in to enjoy a brew and watch the storm,” co-owner Rick Schmitt said. “The rain was severe and the lightning was epic. There was no flash flooding but riding out the storm was something.”

According to Schmitt, Frankfort is still a bit soggy after the drenching it has received.

“Today people have been cleaning up debris and downed tree limbs,” Schmitt said. “Luckily, we didn’t lose power so we just kept on pumping beer.”

The Associated Press contributed.

Extended forecast

Saturday:

Light showers likely and a chance of thunderstorms until 9 a.m. and then partly sunny at about noon. Highs 71 to 75.

Saturday night:

Mostly clear with lows 53 to 57.

Sunday:

Sunny with highs of 72 to 76.

Sunday night:

Mostly clear with lows of 55 to 59.

Monday:

Mostly sunny with highs of 73 to 77.

Monday night:

Mostly clear with lows 56 to 60.

Tuesday:

Partly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of showers. Highs 75 to 79.

Tuesday night:

Partly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers. Lows 60 to 64.

Wednesday:

Partly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers. Highs 74 to 78.