Dozens of utility crews have descended on Michigan from other states – with dozens more to come – to clear live, downed wires and restore power to hundreds of thousands of customers still in the dark after Wednesday's wind storm.
As crews are dispatched to areas, local governments are waiting to see when everything from schools to courts to government buildings can reopen, and some are establishing warming centers for residents who are without power and will be facing colder homes because of frigid temperatures settling into the region the next several days.
According to an earlier update from DTE Energy, more than 660,000 customers remained without power today, with nearly 800,000 customers impacted in all in the largest weather event in the utility's history. It caused extensive tree damage and more than 4,000 downed power lines.
According to an 11:30 a.m. update from Consumers Energy, 178,000 customers still were without power after the 60-plus mph gust winds blasted southern lower Michigan on Wednesday, fanning flames in fires and causing other damage. The utility has been working around the clock to help restore more than 319,000 customers without power during two days of high winds across the state.
The utility said the winds took down 7,900 wires and broke more than 1,000 poles. It said that because of the storm’s duration and statewide impact, some customers in the worst impacted areas may not have power restored until Sunday.
"From line workers to damage assessors, wire guards and customer service representatives, more than 2,200 people are engaged in the storm restoration effort," Consumers Energy said in an update. "An additional 181 crews are arriving from utilities in Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Indiana; 40 of the crews are already on the ground to assist the crews in Michigan."
Many facilities remain closed in metro Detroit today, from the Macomb County administration building in downtown Mt. Clemens (though other county offices, such as circuit court are open) to 38th District Court and Memorial Library in Eastpointe. Macomb County's southwest health center in Warren is shuttered because of a power outage.
According to DTE Energy, about a third of the city of Eastpointe – about 4,000 homes and a couple of hundred businesses – are without power, City Manager Steve Duchane said in an email. It may take 24 to 48 hours for all power to be restored in that city.
While 911 is functioning, the fire and police departments are running on generators, Duchane said. He said the city will not charge any fees for any storm-related permits needed in the event a structure damaged by winds needs to be demolished.
The Recreational Authority of Roseville and Eastpointe planned to serve as a warming center during the outage, Eastpointe officials said, but this afternoon, they said it will not be usable as a warming center since it, too, has lost power. A new warming center has not yet been established.
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts announced the opening of an emergency shelter at the Warren Community Center starting at 6 p.m. today. It will have about 125 sleeping cots, food and beverages. The center is at 5460 Arden, and the city will provide free transportation by calling 586-268-0551.
Fouts said officials estimate there are 360 shut-ins in the city, the state's third largest.
“It is estimated by DTE at 10:20 am that 10,000 Warren customers do not have power, some for as long as 10 more days," Fouts said in his release. “It is also estimated the weather will be very cold for the next week which is the length of time DTE estimates it will need to restore power. This is unacceptable for those forced to live in these conditions. As mayor, I will ask Congressman (Sander) Levin and other state elected officials for help immediately."
Fouts said city fire officials estimate there are 70 downed primary electrical wires, 100 secondary ones and 28 non-functioning traffic signals. He said the city was the hardest hit community in Macomb County, with the city's southwest area hit the worst.
In Oakland County, Costick Center will open as a warming center from today through Sunday, according to a release from the city of Farmington Hills.
It states that citizens using the center, 28600 11 Mile Rd., as a warming center do not have to be Farmington Hills residents. The center will be open today until 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to a release.
In Royal Oak, the Mahany/Meininger Community Center is closed until further notice because it is without power, according to the city's Twitter feed. All other city facilities are open.
In Wayne County, Grosse Pointe Farms city hall remains closed because of a power outage and the Pier Park Community Building will be a warming center for those in need until 8 p.m. today.
In Detroit, the fire department said that 99,000 residents are without power and it is urging them to take safety precautions while using generators to provide power to their residences. Generators, kerosene or propane space heaters emit carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that can result in fatal cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Contact Christina Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.
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