117K without power after storms pound SE Michigan

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

It has been nearly two weeks since Chelsea Jankowiak’s Dearborn home, like others across Metro Detroit, flooded in historic storms.

Roughly a foot of water ruined furniture, appliances, precious keepstakes. So when storms arrived again Wednesday with downpours and high winds that sparked thousands of outages, toppled trees as well as closed an area freeway where power lines fell, Jankowiak and her family warily watched the forecast.

“We’ll probably be sleeping in shifts if the weather gets bad,” she said. “If we have a bad storm, we’re probably going to be on edge at least for the rest of the warm season.”

A tree is uprooted after high winds hit Larkmoor Street in St. Clair Shores on Wednesday.

In a region still recovering from last month’s storms, a system that swept through Wednesday wreaked more havoc across a wide swath of communities, and more severe weather could be ahead Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

Thunderstorms left more than 136,000 people at one point without power across Michigan on Wednesday, dropped heavy rain and hail in spots as well as brought fierce winds.

The threat of flooding surfaced again: The weather service issued an urban and small stream flood advisory for parts of southern Macomb County and Oakland County.

While much of southeast Michigan was under a severe thunderstorm watch or warning, winds snapped tree limbs in communities from Unadilla in Livingston to Monroe County and Beverly Hills in Oakland County.

Straight-line winds roaring with gusts near 60 mph also were reported in parts of Oakland and Macomb counties, said Sara Schultz, a meteorologist with the NWS station in White Lake Township.

Lauren Forth of St. Clair Shores was asleep when she was awakened by the sound of a massive tree limb coming down around her SUV in the driveway, barely missing it, Wednesday, July 7, 2021.

Lauren Forth of St. Clair Shores, whose SUV barely escaped being totaled, said crews tending to a felled tree in the street nearby told her the winds there likely were straight-line.

Around 4 p.m, “everything turned white and the wind just picked up,” she said. “I worked overnight, so I was sleeping and I heard a big noise and I had three dogs on top of me. … So I didn’t know what was going on but it was crazy out there. ... I’ve never seen anything like that.”

David Schuman, who also lives in the city, lost electricity in the aftermath.

“It stormed pretty rough. Most of the block, there were trees down, big branches and whatnot. They got out here pretty fast. Power was out, but we’ll survive,” he said. “It was a very serious downpour. A lot of high winds. It was actually pretty scary for a minute and then it kind of cut down and it started raining again.”

A crew from the St. Clair Shores Public Works Department clears the road of downed tree limbs on Playview Street on Wednesday.

City crews and DTE scrambled to clear the roads and sidewalks. No injuries were reported, St. Clair Shores police said.

Downed wires closed Interstate 275 in Oakland County from Eight Mile to Interstate 696 in both directions late Wednesday afternoon after storms blew through, a release from the city of Farmington Hills said Wednesday night. The freeway reopened at about 8:30 p.m., the Michigan Department of Transportation said.

Michigan State Police troopers and local officers helped divert traffic for hours and steer drivers away from live wires.

In Novi, tree limbs were down near Novi and 12 Mile roads. State police reported trees and power lines down in the Groveland Township area in Oakland County; wind damage was reported in Holly and Monroe, as well as large tree limbs around Maple and Cranbrook in Southfield.

Trees and limbs were toppled in Farmington, and some blocked roads in Mount Clemens and St. Clair Shores, the weather service reported.

Heavy rain fell in Petersburg in Monroe County: the weather service reported up to an inch of rain in 48 minutes and up to 1.1 inches in Ida in the county over 30 minutes. In Bloomfield Hills, rainfall was reported at 1 inch in one hour.

More than an inch of rain fell in Ortonville and Roseville, according to weather service website.

Tree limbs fallen Wednesday on Masonic Road in St. Clair Shores.

DTE Energy reported more than 116,000 outages early Thursday, with large clusters near Walled Lake, West Bloomfield, Farmington, Wixom, Lake Orion, Novi and New Baltimore. Consumers Energy reported some 71 outages affecting 1,370 customers across the state early Thursday.

"Several rounds of high winds and pounding rain that have moved through southeast Michigan since Tuesday night have caused power outages for 200,000 DTE customers," DTE said in a statement Wednesday.

"The violent weather resulted in significant damage across the service territory, including nearly 800 downed wires, broken poles and tree-related damage. DTE teams are working around the clock to quickly and safely secure downed wires and restore power to customers. An additional 650 local contract and out-of-state utility workers will arrive to help with restoration Thursday morning."

After Wednesday’s storms, the region isn’t in the clear. Showers and storms were moving through central Michigan early Thursday. Temperatures for the day are expected near 80, with new rainfall amounts between a quarter- and half-inch possible, the weather service said.

Chelsea Jankowiak and her husband had barely finished the cleanup after her basement flooded the family's home in Dearborn in June when storms hit the area again on Wednesday.

The storms couldn’t have come at a worse time for Jankowiak and her husband, who spent days cleaning up their basement in late June.

On Wednesday, Jankowiak remained practical about the seemingly unending rounds of rain.

“ ... We’re not moving stuff back (in the basement),” she said, until the storm threats are over.