Metro Detroiters pick up pieces after back-to-back storms, outages

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
Scott Golen, of Dearborn, looks at what's left of the uprooted tree that fell on his house, causing minor damage, on North Melborn near Sheridan.
  • By Sunday evening, 290,000 DTE customers and 60,000 Consumers Energy customers remained without power.
  • DTE expects to restore power to 80% of its customers by Monday, 90% by the end of the day Tuesday, and the remainder on Wednesday.
  • Consumers said it aimed to restore power to all of its customers by the end of Tuesday.

What should have been a festive night for Scott Golem, celebrating his fiancee's 35th birthday at Supino’s pizza in Eastern Market, ended early with a troubling phone call: “A tree fell onto your house.”

That was about 7 p.m. Saturday. The storm and the heat were already taking its toll, but now, the tree and extended power outage were adding to the weekend weather punch.

From Frankenmuth to Flint, the storm wreaked havoc: 72 mph or more winds, large tree limbs ripped from trees and trees uprooted from the soaked earth. In Shiawassee, trees were down throughout town, siding was shorn from buildings and in downtown, windows blown out of a building.

By Monday, at least the heat would dissipate, down from a high of 97 on Saturday. The National Weather Service said it would be partly sunny with a high near 79 and a low near 60.

More than half-a-million energy customers had power knocked out: 390,000 DTE Energy customers and another 220,000 Consumers Energy users, bringing the outages in the storms to 610,000, or 6% of the state's population.

DTE called it the second largest storm in its history, after 1.15 million customers lost power in a Michigan windstorm in 2017, and expected total restoration by Wednesday, five days after storms raked the region.

More than 1,100 crews were working around the clock to restore power, with more than 450 added workers from "as far away as Georgia and New York." It expected to restore power to 80% of its customers by Monday, 90% by the end of the day Tuesday, and the remainder on Wednesday.

Consumers said it aimed to restore power to all of its customers by the end of Tuesday. It said the storm resulted in more than 2,800 downed wires

By Sunday evening, 290,000 DTE customers and 60,000 Consumers Energy customers remained without power.

Golem’s home on the 700 block of North Melborn in west Dearborn had already lost power by the time he and Rachel Boese,  whom he’ll marry in November, left for Detroit. 

They cut the trip short without placing an order and arrived to find the tree on their front yard, leaning against the roof of their home.

“We were glad the dogs were OK and the damage is minimal, for what it could’ve been,” Golem, 35, said Sunday. 

This tree, uprooted by Saturday night's storms, lies across Bertram between Theisen and Middlepointe in Dearborn.

The neighbors on North Melborn were just a few without power Sunday. 

On the second floor of Golem's home, dogs Fiona and Lolanot only were unhurt when the tree fell, they weren't bothered by the heat, he said. 

“Because they don’t have hair,” Golem explained of his dogs, who are both American hairless terriers. “They sleep upstairs. So we were glad the tree didn’t fall through the roof, like we were told it did. It didn’t really look like they cared. We were worried, they weren’t.”

A work crew from the city of Dearborn removes tree branches from the 7800 block of Reuter late Sunday morning.

A city crew had cut down and removed the tree by about 9 a.m., Golem said, leaving only the uprooted trunk behind. A neighbor’s car had been parked on the curb near the tree, but it broke toward the home rather than the street. 

By early Sunday afternoon, having been without power for more than 18 hours, and with relief on that side of the street not expected until Tuesday — somehow, the odd-numbered side of the street never lost power — Golem was considering whether to buy a generator or see if his parents had one he could borrow or at least look at DTE's Twitter feed, where the company offered a peek behind the utility's thinking: "Your neighbor has power, but you don't. Let us explain."

The storm, DTE said via Twitter, has left "many customers wondering how we decide where to restore power first."

DTE said once public safety is assessed, it repairs power lines and equipment serving critical health and safety facilities like hospitals and police departments.

"If you see DTE trucks drive through your neighborhood without stopping, it's likely they are headed to critical infrastructure ...,"  DTE said.

Then it focuses on restoring power to the "greatest number of customers in the shortest time possible."

Next door to Golem, neighbors like Mike Bazzi, 34, and Emilee Earhart, 27, benefited from the kindness of those who didn't lose power and who let them borrow a generator on Sunday. In their three years at the home, they’d never lost power until Saturday. 

“We slept here last night,” Earhart said. “It wasn’t fun. Our options are limited because we have a dog, so we couldn’t go many places.”

“She fell asleep fairly quickly,” Bazzi said. He did not, only able to rest after his phone ran out of power at about 2:30 a.m. “I kept checking on (updates on power restoration from DTE) until my power died. Then all hope was gone, so I went to sleep.”

By Sunday afternoon, Bazzi was set to play golf, while Earhart and dog Alexa were headed up the street to a friend’s air-conditioned home to beat the heat. 

On Saturday, the Detroit-area matched its high temperature for July 20, 97 degrees. The earlier 97-degree day was in 1977.

The highest wind speed recorded on Saturday: 72 mph in Columbiaville in Lapeer County, where the high winds uprooted and blew a large tree into a house in the community, said National Weather Service meteorologist Trent Frey. Locally, Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township noted 62 mph winds, according to the weather service. 

For Sunday, the average high for July 2019 was 88.3 degrees, about five degrees warmer than July’s historical high in Detroit, 83.4. Monday, with an expected high of 78 degrees, is projected to be the first day of July 2019 with a high below 80.

Area resident Mohamed Ali Sabra, of Dearborn, is thankful the tree that lies across Bertram fell into the street and not on homes.  (Todd McInturf, The Detroit News)
A fallen tree blocks off the 10400 block of Bertram in Dearborn.

A fallen tree blocked traffic into the day Sunday on Mohamed Ali Sabra's street on the 10400 block of Bertram in Dearborn. It wasn't quite as bad as his welcome to the neighborhood during the Great Flood of 2014. 

“The day I bought my house was the day of the storm and the day my house got flooded,” he said.

Saturday’s storm was mild by comparison.

“This could’ve been way worse,” Sabra said. Had the tree fallen in the other direction, he noted, it likely would’ve taken out a power line and multiple vehicles.

Detroit News Staff Writer Evan James Carter contributed.