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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Thousands of Michigan residents go days without power during heat wave

By Kate Selig New York Times

As storms battered southeast Michigan this past week, Lindsey Brenz heard trees crashing and saw bright flashes of lightning through her windows. Then, she heard a pop and the monotone drone of what she suspected was a power surge.

“I thought, ‘Oh, gosh, this is not going to be good,’” she said.

Brenz, 32, was one of 69,000 customers who lost power Wednesday night after powerful storms downed trees and toppled power lines — compounding the effects of an intense heat wave that has scorched the Midwest and other areas of the country.

Three days after the outage, about 7,000 customers are still without power, according to DTE Energy, a Detroit-based utilities company that serves the area. Detroit has suffered temperatures in the 90s since the heat wave began Monday. The heat index, a measure of how conditions feel with humidity factored in, reached 95 degrees Saturday afternoon.

Brenz’s biggest concern was keeping herself and her cat, Bubba, safe from the sweltering conditions during the outage. She closed her windows, drew the blinds and refrained from showering to keep her house in Berkley cool.

“It was the little things I had to be aware of to keep me and my cat safe,” said Brenz, who works for a nonprofit.

Deb Dworkin, a 52-year-old human resources manager, lives in a bungalow in Berkley. She said her upstairs bedroom got “crazy hot” during the outage. She slept on her couch for two days, using a battery-powered travel fan and a neck towel filled with ice cubes.

“I probably looked ridiculous,” she said.

Michael Reiterman, a 25-year-old assistant financial planner who lives in New Baltimore, tried similar remedies in his home, including shutting the blinds to keep out the heat. But his ultimate solution was to shuttle between his home, which had outages intermittently, and his fiancee’s house, which maintained power through the week.

The country has so far been spared widespread blackouts amid the heat wave, which heightened demand for electricity and put pressure on the grid’s infrastructure. Experts say that’s a promising sign that the grid will be able to handle intense heat waves later in the summer.

But the difficulties faced by the Michigan residents demonstrate the risks of power outages that coincide with heat waves — regardless of whether the outages are caused directly by the heat.

To help mitigate those risks, DTE Energy is planning to invest about $9 billion over the next five years to “harden” the grid to weather the effects of climate change, said Brian Calka, vice president of the company’s distribution operations business unit.

“The weather patterns that we’re seeing right now are fundamentally different from what we’ve seen in recent memory,” he said. “It’s a call to action.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.