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Posted on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 6:29 p.m.

17,000 still without power in Washtenaw County after winter storm blasts area

By Kyle Feldscher

Approximately 17,000 DTE Energy customers remained without power at 9 p.m. Wednesday in Washtenaw County following the winter storm that pummeled the area Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.


Sam and Katy Wilmarth ride out the power outage at their Pittsfield Township home reading under blankets to keep warm Wednesday.

Courtesy of Jennifer Wilmarth

DTE spokesman Alejandro Bodipo-Memba said 90 percent of DTE customers in the county will have power by midnight or in the early morning hours. However, he couldn’t completely deny reports of some customers not being able to get their power back on until Friday.

“We expect to get to 90 percent by midnight tonight or the wee early morning hours of tomorrow,” he said. “Certainly, those stragglers dragging into tomorrow, we’ll get those back as quickly as possible.”

Nikki Powley, an Ypsilanti resident, said power at her home went out at 10 p.m. Tuesday. After contacting DTE, she was told by an automated system power wouldn’t be restored until between midnight and 5 a.m. Friday.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do for the next two days,” she said. “We don’t have family in the area or the finances to cover a hotel room for two nights.”

Powley wasn’t the only area resident who had to figure out a contingency plan after losing power.

Garry Layman, facilities director at Glacier Hills Senior Living, said many residents at the facility’s independent living condominiums left after losing power Wednesday.

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“Many of them have gone to motels, some to the main building, some have decided to stay a while longer,” he said. “My guess is they all will leave eventually if they don’t get power.”

Layman said the assisted living facility and the main building at Glacier Hills never lost power, but there’s no back-up generator for the Villas, or condos. He said the residents at the Villas were being assisted in finding places to stay.

The power outages were caused by heavy snow bringing down tree branches onto power lines across the southeast Michigan area, with most of the afflicted homes in Washtenaw County. Ann Arbor city officials announced a plan Wednesday to help deal with the amount of tree limbs down across the city.

Other area residents who lost power decided to stick it out at home, despite the lack of heat.

The power went out at Jennifer Wilmarth’s Pittsfield Township home at 5 a.m. Wednesday after flickering at approximately 3:15 a.m. She said she and her husband turned on the gas fireplace in their home after the power flickered and have had it running since.

For the most part, the day was spent underneath blankets and near the fireplace trying to keep warm. Wilmarth said her kids, Sam and Katy, were starting to get a little stir crazy by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“They’re talking in Beaker voices to each other,” she said, referring to the Muppets’ character with a high-pitched squeal.

Wilmarth said her husband managed to work from home until his back-up laptop battery died and he drove to a relative’s house to work for the rest of the day. The family was going to go out to dinner and walk around Target to enjoy some warmth. She said their power was expected back on later Wednesday night.

The storm dumped a total of seven inches on southeast Ann Arbor, according to the National Weather Service. Other parts of the city saw four-and-a-half inches of snowfall.

Five inches of snow fell in Chelsea, four inches in Manchester and between 3.6 and four inches in Saline, according to the NWS.

NWS meteorologists said less than an inch of new snow is expected to fall Wednesday during a storm that rolled in at 5 p.m. Thursday is expected to be cloudy with lingering snow showers. Temperatures will be in the mid-30s.

All of that means Ann Arbor Public Schools likely will be back in session Thursday.

Spokeswoman Liz Margolis said Scarlett Middle School and Mitchell Elementary were the only schools expected to be without power until late Wednesday night. King Elementary School and Ann Arbor Technical High School were expected to have their power restored Wednesday afternoon.

“That’s our plan,” Margolis said when asked if school would be going ahead on Thursday.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

The outage map is far from accurate. It clearly shows my home in the "outage" area. With the exception of 4 brief outages Tuesday night, my power has been on all along. Not complaining, just stating the map is inaccurate.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

The DTE outage system is lousy. Our power went out at 3:45am Weds. I awoke, reported it via my DTE phone app. Estimated restoration was around midnight Thursday. Map showed few outages. Hours later map finally showed more outages. Our estimated restoration moved earlier by a few hours, then later, then we got a phone call saying it would be even later (like 2am Friday). Around 3pm we gave up and bought dry ice at Washtenaw Dairy. Had made hotel reservations at 5am so packed. Planned on checking in at 6. Around 4pm estimate changed to 7pm yesterday, and power came on at 5:15. The initial estimates that DTE provides are always widely off. Seems they give a time when they don't know yet the cause. The Android app map (assume it matches the PC map you see on their site) doesn't update unless you exit and reenter it. Smart meters don't feed the map. And the map has a lag of many hours, as do individual restoral estimates. If you click on an outage block it gives you the number of people affected and time of outage and cause. Time was not close to ours and reason was something like surge device or similar. Subsequent estimates have no accuracy until a crew gets on site it seems and seems to always be much longer than reality. I am of course very glad that the power came on 31 hours before forecast, but it seems that our intelligent meters should feed the data stream. And I would like to see DTE provide guidance on restoral estimates like "automatic 48 hour initial estimate" and "area estimate that may not be accurate for your home", etc. And if the maps and estimates aren't good info, that should be indicated. I appreciate there is a map, but don't trust the data. I hope DTE works on this. I appreciate the DTE crews that go out and do the repairs especially in bad weather. But our service is too unreliable, this is the 2nd outage in a week - last was the Green Rd and Plymouth Red line failure.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 11:28 a.m.

As of this writing? Ypsilanti and Dexter are still closed.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 10:55 a.m.

Welcome to the new normal - "powerless". People complain that DTE should spend some of their billion in profit to upgrade power infrastructure. The free-market answer - why? there is no incentive. Following Hurricane Sandy people on the East coast began to ask the same logical question. Why don't utilities "harden" their infrastructure against future storms? Here is one answer "Fully stormproofing the system — sinking power lines, elevating substations and otherwise hardening equipment against damage from torrential winds and widespread flooding — could easily cost 100 times as much." [NYTimes]. In addition, costs for emergencies can be writen off or attached onto the monthly bills without permission. Government "disaster relief"" money is also used. Once upon a time utilities were tightly regulated and considered to be boring, long term security investments Good customer service was paramount. As a deregulated profit corporation the bottom line now takes precedence. NY & NJ governors are contemplating whether or not (no pun) to allow big rate increases to ensure that their infrastructure will be protected one way or another. Welcome to the new world weather order. Now go into the basement, be powerless, and do whatever your smart meter tells you to.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 4:25 a.m.

I have lived in a house on South Adams street in Ypsi for almost 30 years and have never lost power, not even during the green sky storm of 81. Guess I am one of the lucky ones., you have any records of that storm with winds of 125 mph? I'm getting old but I'm pretty sure it was 1981.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

How did you manage to escape the Northeast Blackout of 2003?


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 3:41 a.m.

There has been a downed live wire in our neighbors backyard since 8am. It is sparking and smoldering in a burning tree - DTE has been called numerous times - dangerous situation to say the least


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:51 a.m.

Any word on whether Scarlett Middle School has power yet? The DTE outage map hasn't shown Scarlett without power at all today, so I don't trust it now.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

The infrastructure of SE Michigan is that of a third-world country.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:25 a.m.

The infrastructure of SE Michigan is that of a third-world country.

Tom Joad

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 2:15 a.m.

Just hope the pipes don't freeze before Friday--tomorrow night is going to be 19 deg.


Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 1:28 a.m.

4 of 6 schools are still without power in Dexter. Received an e-mail that if the power is not restored we will be notified by the early morning phone call. Plus, they have Friday scheduled off for students...could be a 5 day weekend for the kids.

Michigan Man

Thu, Feb 28, 2013 : 12:36 a.m.

Might be wise to save on that public art budget and steer the money toward, heat, power, electricity + others essentials that the folks really need.

Jim Pryce

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 11:37 p.m.

Any word on Ypsilanti High School? I know that they had no power this am.

Kyle Feldscher

Wed, Feb 27, 2013 : 11:39 p.m.

Jim- I called YPS superintendent Dedrick Martin earlier today and have not heard back from him. Not surprisingly, the YPS offices were also closed.