DTE Energy, Consumers crews head south to ravaged areas to help restore power

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

With a round of extreme weather passing through the South this week, crews from both major Michigan utility companies, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, will lend a hand, the companies said Wednesday.

After 10 inches of snow in southeast Michigan, and heavy snowfalls throughout the Lower Peninsula, the energy infrastructure across the state has had few problems. As of Wednesday morning, DTE had 220 power outages. Consumers had 14.

Wednesday morning, a caravan of 62 DTE Energy employees departed from Monroe down Interstate 75 for eastern Kentucky, where one-third of homes and businesses lost power. They drove in company vehicles, which were outfitted with extra equipment, a company spokeswoman said.

Another 150 contractors were detailed to Virginia and West Virginia.

Kentucky had roughly 131,000 power outages on Tuesday, the Lexington Herald Leader reported, and the bad weather has only just begun.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning in eastern Kentucky, from 7 p.m. Wednesday through 7 a.m. Friday. Three to six inches of snow might fall, and 1/10 of an inch of ice could accumulate.

Almost 9 million of Michigan's almost-10 million people get their power from either DTE, which serves 2.2 million homes and businesses in southeast Michigan, or Consumers, which serves 6.6 million people in most of the rest of the state.

Consumers said Wednesday it is sending roughly 50 employees, or about 15 crews, down to North Carolina, and has released another 15 contract crews to head down to Richmond, Virginia.

Crews from Consumers Energy are going to North Carolina after a tornado wiped out utilities.

In coastal North Carolina, there was a tornado. Stormy conditions throughout the state have resulted in massive power outages during a cold snap. Just as the energy situation seemed to be improving, as restoration efforts were going on Tuesday, more winter weather is expected Wednesday, WGHP-TV reports.

The National Weather Service shows much of western to central North Carolina under a winter storm warning through 7 a.m. Friday. Its Raleigh office warns "significant icing" is expected, from a quarter-inch to a half-inch.

Richmond, meanwhile, is under a flood warning issued Wednesday, and residents will wake up Thursday to a winter storm warning in effect. It will expire 7 a.m. Friday.

Mutual aid is arranged by one of seven regional mutual assistance groups in America. Michigan's mutual aid is coordinated by Great Lakes Mutual Assistance.

A primer by the the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners explains the process: the regional mutual assistance group initiates a conference call with its member utilities. The need and the situation are outlined, and members say what resources each utility can provide.

Agencies planning mutual aid among utility companies across the nation.

While the host utility pays room and board, and handles any liability, the sender arranges travel.