Surveying the destruction: 500K lose power in massive Michigan storms

Ariana Taylor Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Energy companies said Thursday they were making progress in restoring power to thousands of customers in the dark since severe thunderstorms swept the state this week.

By evening, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy reported some 148,000 customers across the state remained without electricity.

Heavy rain hits shoppers outside a Kroger supermarket in Warren on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.

DTE Energy reported about 38,000  customers were affected late Thursday, down from about 137,000 at 6 a.m.

The storm knocked out power to 227,000 DTE Energy customers overall.

"Our crews, as well as crews from out of state, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky, who have joined us with our restoration efforts, will continue to work 16 hours a day around the clock until all customers are restored," said Heather Rivard, senior vice president of electric distribution for DTE, in a video message posted on the utility's Twitter page.

Meanwhile, Consumers Energy reported about 110,000  of its customers were without power late Thursday, down from 151,000 at about 4:30 a.m.

The storms Tuesday and Wednesday interrupted service for more than 245,000 Consumers customers overall, toppled trees along with nearly 5,000 electric wires and broke more than 200 poles, the utility said.

Most customers are expected to be restored by the end of Friday. Restoration work for areas with heavier damage, including customers in Branch, Calhoun, Kent, Jackson and Saginaw counties, could continue into the weekend.

“While more than 1,600 Consumers Energy employees and in-state contractors continue progress returning power to every one of our customers impacted by these storms, we thank our customers for their patience and ask everyone to keep safety the top priority,” said Guy Packard, Consumers Energy vice president for electric operations. “We remind everyone to beware for the potential for downed electric lines and to be sure to follow safety guidelines if operating generators.”

The Upper Peninsula Power Co., which serves 10 counties, had about 17,000 without power early Thursday and, in the Eastern UP, about peak of about 8,000 Cloverland Electric Cooperative customers lost power on Wednesday. Both companies reported no outages on their websites Thursday night.

A wire downed during a storm Wednesday sets a tree on fire, which spreads to a garage in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Winds lingered across the state Thursday, prompting a "beach hazards statement" for Mason, Oceana, Ottawa, Allegan, Van Buren and Muskegon counties in west Michigan through 10 p.m. the National Weather Service said. 

In Metro Detroit, the National Weather Service forecast winds diminishing to 6-11 mph by early Friday, when the high could reach the 70s. There's also a 30% chance of showers in the afternoon.

Temperatures could drop to around 50 overnight before rising into the upper-60s, slightly below average for mid-June, under partly cloudy skies on Saturday.

Sunday should be mostly sunny as the mercury rebounds into the low 70s.

The outlook is calmer compared to the strong upper level wave that swept over the Great Lakes on Wednesday while an unstable low-level air mass was in place following the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal the night before, the weather service said. 

As the storm system arrived and pushed east Wednesday, gusts reached 40 mph in St. Clair Shores and in Mount Clemens, the National Weather Service reported. Wind gusts in west Michigan topped 70 mph near Holland.

In the afternoon and early evening, trees were reported downed in Ann Arbor, Saline, Bruce Township, Brighton and Oakland County, according to the weather service website.

Trees and tree limbs also were reported down in Grosse Pointe Woods, Dearborn and Harper Woods. A garage fire was reported in Grosse Pointe Woods after power lines fell onto trees and sparked the blaze. Grosse Pointe public safety officials confirmed crews were battling multiple house fires in the suburb and surrounding communities. 

A cluster of trees fell in Grosse Pointe Woods

In Sanilac County, a "church roof partially peeled off along with a couple of trees snapped," while several trees fell onto a roof in Saginaw County, the weather service reported.

Hail also was reported in Sanilac and Lapeer counties.

A tree blocked a west Dearborn neighborhood road.

Some cities in west Michigan saw 1-inch hail.

When dark clouds erupted with a second round of downpours in east Detroit at about 5:40 p.m., strong winds rattled windows and small hail pelted rooftops for several minutes.

A car drives through water over Ottawa Beach Road in Holland on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. A severe storm blew through the area downing trees and power lines.

Overall outlook

There have been reports of a possible tornado sighting in Fowler, though that has not been confirmed by officials. 

Steve Considine, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said they have not received any information about a tornado sighting. 

"If anything it's probably just some strong wind gusts... we've been seeing some pretty strong winds over there," said Considine. 

Two semitrailers on US-127 in Gratiot County tipped due to heavy winds, according to officials. Both accidents were within a mile of each other, near Buchanan Road and the other near Hayes Street.

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