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‘This is ridiculous’: 200K without power in Michigan after 2nd storm in 9 days

March 4, 2023 Updated Sat., March 4, 2023 at 9:28 p.m.

DTE Energy headquarters in Detroit in July 2014. (Dreamstime/TNS)  (Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS)
DTE Energy headquarters in Detroit in July 2014. (Dreamstime/TNS) (Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS)
By Francis X. Donnelly Detroit News

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – Fay Baker lost power during the Great Winter Storm I last week and lost it again during Great Winter Storm II Friday.

She is frosty, and not like the snowman.

“It’s … unbelievable,” said the Royal Oak resident. “The first one was a nightmare. This one …”

She didn’t finish the sentence and didn’t have to. The second storm in nine days knocked out electricity to more than 200,000 customers of DTE Energy, said the utility.

At 2:45 p.m. the utility reported 194,443 customers without power, down from 205,631 at 11:30 a.m., and 91% of its customers unaffected.

The highest number of power outages are in Wayne and Oakland counties, according to DTE outage maps.

DTE issued a statement at 3 p.m. Saturday saying it expects that 95% of the 220,000 customers impacted by Friday’s storm will have power restored by the end of the day Monday.

The utility said trees and branches damaged by last week’s ice storm broke from the weight of the heavy snow and ice and fell onto power lines and other equipment, leading to outages and more than 2,000 reported downed wires.

Approximately 3,500 field team members, including out-of-state teams held over from last week’s ice storm, will continue working around the clock, DTE said.

Consumers Energy reported 15,543 customers without power at 2:53 p.m., down from 15,959 at 11:35 a.m., and more than 99% unaffected.

The heavy snow, which cut a swath from Jackson through northern Metro Detroit suburbs to St. Clair and Sanilac counties, broke records in various cities, including 6.2 inches in Detroit, whose record for the date was 6 inches in 1875.

The highest snowfall accumulations extended from Kalamazoo to Lansing and Jackson with 6 to 10 inches of snow, said the weather service.

In a Royal Oak neighborhood where 800 homes were without power, a Hollywood Market grocery store buzzed with activity on Saturday afternoon. Some customers sought ice for their dead refrigerators. Others sought warmth.

Stephanie Fowler, who was buying canned goods for an uncertain future, was philosophical about Storm II. Then again, her Royal Oak abode wasn’t singed by Storm I.

“You just try to make the best of it. You can’t do much more than that,” she said.

Fowler said she would stay with a friend and, if the outage lasts awhile, would borrow a generator from another buddy.

In another aisle of the supermarket, Baker said she tried to wait out the earlier power loss but won’t make the same mistake again. If she doesn’t have electricity by nightfall, she’s checking into a hotel. And will ask DTE to pay for it.

“I don’t mind cold, but this is ridiculous,” she said. “It’s 2022, ’23, whatever. This shouldn’t be happening.”

The National Weather Service said the snowfall was so intense, up to 3 inches an hour, that thundersnow was observed at several sites Friday night.

The wet snow piled up quickly on trees and power lines, said the NWS.

Besides causing havoc for the utility, the storm also caused lakeshore flooding along the Lake Erie shoreline, said the weather service.

Detroit Metro Airport was temporarily closed during the storm and some flights were delayed or diverted. The airport reopened around midnight.

The outages follow a pair of ice storms last week that knocked out power for more than 600,000 customers.

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