DTE working to restore power for final 2,000

Nicquel Terry, Candice Williams, and Holly Fournier
DetroitNews

DTE Energy crews Wednesday morning continued to work to restore power to the final 2,000 customers remaining in the dark following last week's historic windstorm.

DTE Energy said Wednesday morning it had restored power to more than 798,000 customers after a massive windstorm swept through southeast Michigan on Wednesday. A total of 800,000 DTE customers and about 1.1 million statewide lost power.

The utility company initially addressed outages at critical locations like hospitals, then moved to jobs that would "restore power for the largest number of customers," officials said. Now, they are focused on smaller jobs with the most extensive damage, which require more workers and time to resolve.

This included eight Detroit customers who lost power when two poles broke last week, bringing down a transformer and causing an oil leak just east of City Airport, Heather Rivard, DTE spokeswoman, said Tuesday. In Lapeer, 35 customers are in the dark after 35 poles snapped.

Other examples included a 90-customer outage in Howell that involved 16 workers repairing three broken poles. In Dearborn Heights, about 100 customers remained without power as 20 workers repaired 12 blocks of downed wires.

In Oakland County, around 70 customers in Bloomfield Hills waited for their power to be restored Tuesdayas 18 workers repaired downed wires and a broken cross arm. Rivard said that due to a deep easement, those workers had to drag supplies and equipment about 100 yards behind homes and into ravines to make repairs.

"These are the types of jobs that we’re faced with at the tail end of the storm, which is why the restoration effort at the end can feel like it’s dragging on," she said Tuesday.

The 4,000 customers still without power Tuesday were scattered throughout DTE's coverage area. All crews are working 16-hour days, with many volunteering for 24-hour shifts, Rivard said.

On Monday, there were 1,000 linemen from seven states as well as 750 linemen from Michigan working to restore power throughout the utility’s coverage area, Rivard said. About 1,000 tree trimmers from Michigan and other states also were deployed.

"We are truly doing everything that we possibly can do," she said Tuesday.

Rivard said "smart meters" have helped DTE identify most of the remaining power outages.

"We know that they’re out of power, even if the (online) outage map is showing that they have power," she said. "Regardless of what the app says, we are working to restore their power."

But older systems without "smart meters" may fly under the radar, she added.

"For those customers, we may not know that they are out of power," Rivard said. "They should call us to make sure we have their case in our system."

Meanwhile, DTE officials are assuring customers on Twitter that crews are addressing their outages, even if they do not appear to be working in the neighborhood.

"You may not see them, but crews are out there," officials said in a 6:20 a.m. tweet. "The repair of your outage my not be near your home."

Those who lost power may be eligible for a $25 credit, officials said. It is the only financial reimbursement currently offered.

As DTE crews work, Metro Detroiters adapt to the cold.

Monday marked Day 6 without heat or lights at Ilene Franks’ house on Detroit’s west side.

Franks said she has lost a month’s worth of groceries and that DTE Energy officials had not met any of their estimated restoration times.

“Sunday they were saying Monday,” said Franks, who lives near Livernois and Fullerton. “I’m afraid to call them today because they may say ‘oh, it’s snowing now.’ My hands are thrown up.”

Although restoration crews are accustomed to working in inclement weather, the snow and icy road conditions in addition to time-consuming repairs slowed efforts on Monday, officials said.

Dwayne Carson, who lives in the Rosedale Park neighborhood in Detroit, said Monday his house had partial power that allowed a few lamps to work. But not the furnace or appliances.

Carson said his mother and stepfather slept at the house the first few nights using a fireplace and kerosene space heater to stay warm.

But they are now staying with family members, while Carson stays with a friend.

“(DTE Energy) say they are working on it as fast as they can,” Carson said. “But you would think that by now we would at least have a resolution. I just want to sleep in my own bed.”

nterry@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-6793