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DTE Energy crews preparing for power outages due to high winds

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Bad could soon get a whole lot worse.

The National Weather Service has issued a "high wind watch" for Metro Detroit, warning of wind gusts as high as 55 mph beginning Monday afternoon, while DTE Energy said Saturday it is preparing for "a significant number of power outages."

A DTE employee works on fixing power lines.

That's potentially bad news for thousands of Metro Detroiters who are stuck at home under Michigan's stay-at-home order, who may have to temporarily tough it out in the dark with no television, appliances or internet service if the winds knock down large numbers of power lines.

"Crews are on standby and are ready to respond should high winds cause outages," a DTE press release said.

Rain is expected to begin in Southeastern Michigan after 1 a.m. Monday and continue through the morning. Strong winds will pick up in the afternoon and continue through Monday night between 45 mph and 55 mph, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Steve Considine. 

"Those type of winds have the potential to bring a few tree limbs and possibly some power lines down," he said.

Residents of the western and central Upper Peninsula could expect near blizzard conditions and anywhere from 8 inches to two feet of snow in some of the higher elevations west of Marquette, Considine said. 

DTE Energy spokesman Dave Peterson said during the coronavirus outbreak, the company will follow normal protocol for repairing downed power lines — with a few modifications.

"We're just asking people to please not approach our workers unless you absolutely have to, and if you do, we ask that you use social distancing," he said. "Other than that, it'll be the same as if we weren't dealing with a virus."

While the company's repair efforts likely won't be significantly affected by the coronavirus and the attempts to stop its spread, Peterson said he's aware of the impact downed power lines could have on residents.

"We feel for our customers," he said. "High winds are always something we have to be careful with; most of the time, it's high winds that cause most of the damage, not rain or snow.

"But now, the problems would be exacerbated," Peterson said. "That's why we're getting ready, just in case. We want to be ready for anything that might happen, so we're pulling our crews and teams together. Better to be ready than have it take us by surprise."

Consumers Energy warned of high winds Monday as well and urged those who lose power to used portable generators outside the home to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. 

DTE's press release suggested customers can get ready for possible power outages by:

  • Charging all mobile devices now and having extra battery packs on hand.
  • Assembling an emergency kit, including flashlights, candles, a battery-powered radio, bottled water and non-perishable food.
  • If power goes out, staying at least 20 feet away from a downed power line and making sure to keep family and pets away. 

Customers are encouraged to use the DTE Energy Mobile App or visit www.outage.dteenergy.com to report an outage or downed wire, view the outage map and check the status of the outage.

"Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, please refrain from calling the customer service line at (800) 477-4747 unless it’s an emergency (such as a downed power line)," the press release said. "Thanks to DTE’s smart grid technology, the system operators will be aware of all outages and will deploy crews accordingly."

ghunter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN