DTE: Power restored to 95% of customers

James David Dickson and Kim Kozlowski, DetroitNews

DTE Energy said it has restored power to nearly 95 percent of the 800,000 customers who lost power in Wednesday's windstorm and all customers will have power back by 11:30 p.m. Monday.

"For the 45,000 customers still without power, DTE knows this has been a trying period, Peter Ternes, DTE spokesman, said in a statement early Monday. "As DTE continues to receive information from the field, estimates are being provided to customers. We urge all customers to take caution today as the National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for southeast Michigan."

A winter weather advisory is in effect for southeast Michigan from 6 a.m until 11 p.m. Monday. A light snow will begin falling Monday morning across the region with about an inch of accumulation during the morning commute, said Cory Behnke, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township. Snow will continue through the evening rush hour, with accumulation of between 2-4 inches along and south of the Interstate 94 corridor. 

The sheer number of trees that came down in this storm, destroying power lines and utility poles, is extraordinary. When DTE’s crews go out to repair damage, they are often finding additional, unreported damage.

Temperatures will be locked in the 20s Monday, Behnke said, with the mercury reaching a high of only 27 degrees.

“There will be a 90 percent chance of snow on Monday,” Behnke said.

Snow and colder temperatures Monday will top a challenging past week for some as a million-plus power outage swept the region. On Wednesday, a massive windstorm created the region’s largest power outage in DTE Energy’s history, knocking out power to more than 800,000 homes, schools and businesses. 

Meanwhile, Consumers Energy said that all but about 1,870 of its 350,000 customers affected by the storm had power early Sunday. It expected completion of repairs by Monday.

When the storm hit last week, temperatures had reached the mid-40s. But with each passing day, the mercury dipped into the 30s. 

With more frigid temperatures on the way, DTE officials urged residents to check on friends and neighbors who may still be without power. It also provided a list of warming centers.

In recent days, many residents sought refuge in area hotels to escape dark and cold homes.

Others relied on generators for power. Authorities believe the running of a generator lead to the death of 75-year-old Lonnie Sibbett and 70-year-old Leona Sibbett from carbon monoxide poisoning at a home in Leoni Township, near Jackson.

Meanwhile, crews had been working around the clock to fix utility lines that snapped in the high wind. Officials said 1,700 DTE and out-of-state crews were working to restore power.

In a job that was expected to take 16 crew members 16 hours to finish, DTE said the utility was replacing five broken utility poles on the 9200 block of Carter in Allen Park. School was expected to be back in session Monday at Lindemann Elementary School, which anchors the block. 

But the work necessary to restore that power, and with it, a return to normal, illustrated the difficulty DTE faced in its last leg of the efforts to recover from the power outage.

While most Allen Park residents have power, there were poles down on the 9200 block of Carter.

Replacing them, said Heather Rivard, senior vice president of DTE Electric, required bringing in new poles weighing more than 1,200 pounds each.

DTE trucks lined the block with workers in neon-green jackets and hard hats throughout the day. The nature of the problem on Carter required a fix that was time and personnel intensive, DTE said.

The poles had to be wired with electricity and outfitted with transformers that themselves weigh 500 to 1,000 pounds, officials said. The transformers “step down” raw electricity to a form usable by households, Rivard said.

Similar situations with broken poles are being addressed in the Thumb area of Michigan, Dearborn Heights and Detroit’s west side. 

“The tail-end of a storm takes longer,” Rivard said, because all of the relatively easy work has been done by that point. “What’s left is all the hard work.”

Over the weekend, two prominent Detroit pastors, the Rev. Wendell Anthony and the Rev. Horace Sheffield, joined DTE officials to canvass homes to make sure elderly and vulnerable residents without power were fine.

Brett Tillander, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Oakland and Macomb, said the stories of people, especially the elderly and vulnerable, were heartbreaking and touching, citing a 93-year-old woman undergoing chemo, who didn’t have family in the area.

“She was trying to spend the day in restaurants,” Tillander said. “The peace of mind for her to know that it was here.”

Detroit News Staff Writer Leonard N. Fleming and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Robert Sterk, left, 66, and his wife, Bridget Sterk, 61, both of Royal Oak, charge their cell phones as they pass the time at the Patti & Jack Salter Community Center: Home of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland and Macomb Counties in Royal Oak on Saturday.

Warming Center locations during March wind storm restoration - Empowering Michigan

Ryan “Chopper” Beger, 33, of Armada Twp., fills up the gas tank on this borrowed portable generator, Saturday morning, March 11, 2017. Chopper and his girlfriend, Bobbi Jo Craft, have been without power since wind storms hit Metro Detroit Wednesday night. “Last night I went to the attic and got five comforters. We even wrapped up the dogs in the bed cause they were shivering, says Beger.” He will use the generator to run two electric heaters and a chest freezer full of venison from the 2016 deer season harvest. Yesterday, Chopper shared his thoughts on Facebook with this post, “Missing: Edison linemen to bring power back to my house in Armada. Please notify if any sightings are made of an Edison truck in Northern Macomb County. There is a reward of rotting venison from my thawed out freezer for any information.”
DTE's latest timeline for having the power restored to all customers