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Posted on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

Power out for 6,000 DTE customers in Ann Arbor

By Cindy Heflin


Traffic is backed up along South Industrial near Eisenhower Parkway during a power outage that knocked out traffic lights in the area.

Lizzy Alfs |

Editor's note: This article has been updated several times and information about the status of Briarwood Mall has been corrected.

A fire at a DTE substation on South State Street knocked out power to about 6,000 customers in Ann Arbor Thursday afternoon, a DTE spokesman said.

The area without power included Briarwood Mall; however power was restored to the mall just before 5:30 p.m., and the DTE Energy power outage map indicated power had been mostly restored by 8 p.m.

DTE spokesman Alejandro Bodipo-Memba said the cause of the fire was not immediately known, and he did not have an estimated time that power would be restored.


A fire burns at a DTE substation on South State Street in Ann Arbor. It knocked out power in a large area of southwest Ann Arbor, including Briarwood Mall.

Ann Arbor Fire Department photo

The outage, which occurred about 3:15 p.m., left a large area of the city with no air conditioning or fans on the hottest day of the year so far. The temperature was 100 degrees at 4:45 p.m., National Weather Service data indicated.

The DTE power outage map showed two large areas on the southwest side of the city without power at the height of the outage. One area stretched roughly from Scio Church Road almost to Interstate 94. The other ran from north of Stadium Boulevard roughly to Eisenhower Parkway.

Ann Arbor Fire Battalion Chief Robert Vogel said firefighters used five or six containers of carbon dioxide to extinguish the fire because water would have damaged the electrical equipment. He said after power was cut, it took firefighters about 15 minutes to extinguish the fire.

Ann Arbor Public Schools spokeswoman Liz Margolis said "quite a bit of smoke" was visible from the DTE substation up the hill from the Balas administration building at 2555 S. State St. She said there were four large explosions, and Balas lost power momentarily before staff could get the building's generator up and running. She said DTE Energy and the fire department were on the scene.

The outage snarled the afternoon commute for many, and caused delays on AATA bus routes. Traffic lights were reported out in in many locations throughout the area. Witnesses reported lengthy backups along South State Street and Eisenhower Parkway.

By the time power was restored at the mall, several stores had already closed as individual store managers made decisions to send staff home and lock their doors. But many reopened after the power came back. One store that made the best of the situation was Kay Jewelers, which remained open - and even made a sale in the dark during the power outage. That deal “proves you don’t need computers for everything,” said store manager Shawn St. Andre.

At the Town Cobbler shoe repair at Briarwood, Kyung Kim and her customers used a flashlight to find completed orders in the back room of the store. As a service business, she said, “we had to stay open.” The outage Thursday afternoon wasn’t widespread enough to spur the activation of the Washtenaw County Heatwave Community Response Plan, said Marc Breckenridge, director of emergency management for the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office. Under the plan, the county would open cooling centers. Breckenridge said the heat advisory and power outage situation would be reassessed Friday at 1 p.m.

At the University of Michigan, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said power was out at Wolverine Tower, an administrative office building on South State Street and in some parts of the south athletic campus. She said there was no significant impact since the workday was over.

Even after the power came back on at Briarwood, traffic around the mall remained a challenge for drivers - and people waiting for a ride. Rod Jefferson had an appointment earlier Thursday at a University of Michigan clinic, but sought refuge at Briarwood after waiting 1.5 hours for a ride home.

Residents who live in the neighborhood off Stadium Boulevard between South State and Packard streets were without power Thursday afternoon, but were optimistic it would be turned back on soon.

At around 5 p.m., Kate Blake, of Brooklyn Avenue, said her power had been out for about an hour and half — not long enough for the dense heat to affect the inside of her house yet.

"The air conditioning was on all day, so it's still cool," she said.

If the power remained out into the evening, however, Blake planned on going to stay with friends who still had electricity.

Nancy Leff, of Granger Avenue, said she would seek the cool refuge of her basement if power wasn't restored.

"I hope it comes back on," she said.

Her next door neighbor, Rollin Johnson, of Golden Avenue, was pragmatic about coming home from work to find the power out.

"I'm sort of concerned," he said. "But it happens. You work around it."

Sandy Gregerman, also of Golden Avenue, was walking up to Kroger on South Industrial Highway when she turned around to get cash from her house just in case the registers weren't working.

"I'm making a salad and not opening the refrigerator," she said about her plans for the evening. reporters Been Freed, John Counts and Amy Biolchini contributed to this article.


Areas without power are shown in yellow, brown and purple on the map.



Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 10:47 a.m.

One of the buildings affected by the outage was the Dialysis Center at the corner of Eisenhower and South Industrial. About 9 people were on dialysis when the Hemodialysis Unit went dark at 3:35 p.m. Staff used hand cranks to return blood still in the dialyzers (about 1 pint) to patients. Some people were sent home to return for make up dialysis on Friday, while others were sent to the Dailysis Unit at the Main UM Hospital.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

I hope they can get some back up generators...very critical.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

No generators? Awful!!!!


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 2:13 a.m.

As a prepper I ran my generator, made a pitcher of margaritas and loaded the shotgun in case looters came looking for ice cubes


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 3 a.m.

Forget about the ice cubes...margaritas sound more "loot-worthy" to me.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 12:36 a.m.

Power back on here around 6:40 PM after over 3 hours of 'brown out'. Live just off Oakbrook behind Whole Foods. Glad to have my A/C back on!

Ann English

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 11:44 p.m.

Looks like the purple area was exclusively Research Park Drive, a strictly business street.

Matt Sussman

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 11:07 p.m.

I had to drive from State/Eisenhower outward and battle some really congested intersections with no traffic lights, including the one in the picture. For all the negativity with other drivers, and I'm usually pretty pessimistic with AA drivers, today everyone was pretty alert and letting others in. Refreshing to see.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 1:56 a.m.

I saw the opposite. People were not treating lights that were out as 4-way stops, and instead you would get several cars going at a time. VERY dangerous.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 12:07 a.m.

Agreed! I was pretty surprised how politely and calmly everyone handled the outages!


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 11:06 p.m.

Unless forced by law, Utility companies won't spend the money to do serious improvements to the national power grid. It will cost them profits. President Obama has been trying to get an unwilling and obstructive Republican Congress to support power grid and infrastructure improvements since he was elected. He's been fought every step of the way by Republicans and their lobbyists and the Utility companies.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

Yes, Republican House and Republican Filibuster happy Senate.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

mixmaster - The amount that DTE and others are allowed to spend on capital projects is set each year by the MPSC. The documents are on the website. A large number of capital improvements that DTE has wanted to make over the last decade have been denied by the MPSC. Believe what you want, but DTE only gets to request, they don't get to decide, your state regulators get to decide. Don't like the state of the infrastructure - complain to the MPSC.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 11:09 a.m.

Republican Congress? You watch to much MSNBC.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

Our power came back on at 6:15. We live in the Northbrook Drive area.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

How long did it take to "cut" power so the firfighters could start extinquishing the fire? Burn time?


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

We're near Pioneer, and we just got our power back, too. DTE had originally told me betweeen 6-8 PM.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

Good way to stick your foot in your mouth......Mr. Mayor, leots close down two of the most important public services!


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

Pretty nasty traffic grid lock in those areas. Power back in my area around 5:30...hope it stays on.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

We're in that right-hand orange blob and power returned about 5:25.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

Power was restored at Briarwood.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

So. How long will the infrastructure stay this beat up? People keep building new subs, stores etc etc. And yet the power grid is still the same. With all the money DTE charges for rates. One would tend to believe that they have a lot of money for upgrades.


Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

Bones - DTE files annual documents with the state regulatory commission, and they hold the power of the purse. The reality of it is, that DTE has had less and less money for capital improvements/replacements each year for the last decade. The average piece of equipment will continue to get older and older. As a nation we get a "D" on electrical infrastructure from the organization doing the rating. We only need about a trillion dollars to fix it. While it feels like a lot of money pay for electricity in Hawaii or California or ... We do OK as a state. Oh, and with the changes to the environmental laws - your power bill will go up again.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

Clearly part of Obama's socialist plot!


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

Luck has it that it we are right on the edge of power outages. Sounds like large loads on older equipment.

Ann English

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 11:41 p.m.

I did go through the new Ellsworth-Airport Boulevard traffic signal yesterday, and those signals are brand new, although I did see a few loose lines sticking up; take it that new signal will be working fine as Costco opens tomorrow morning.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:18 p.m.

yah, just drove through this area. ellsworth still has power, but it's total gridlock anyway.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 10:18 p.m.

Me too, it took FOREVER! What a mess...


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

Very bad timing. Hope power is restored soon. It's 100 degrees out there.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

Four large explosions in the building, taking out power for 6000 customers, on the hottest day of the year? Sure, something could have overheated, but I would think the substation was designed with temperature extremes in mind... Does this sound like foul play to anyone else?


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 10:54 p.m.

No. Utility equipment is generally at the greatest risk of failure when it is running hot. Today's high ambient temperature and high electrical system loads (due to air conditioning use) would cause elevated temperatures throughout the electric transmission and distribution system, thereby greatly increasing the chance of component failures.

John of Saline

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:57 p.m.

In Hawaii, which has more pleasant weather than here.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

and where's Obama's birth certificate while we're putting our tinfoil hats on!


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

No, it sounds like transformers exploding during a very hot day during high usage.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

Is this having an effect on Comcast?


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

yes it is, certain area customers are affected


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

I lost cable tv and internet at 3:15 out on west Jackson. Internet returned at 5:10, still no tv.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

Anyone have any idea when power will be restored?


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

DTE is saying they estimate power will be restored between 5:30 and 7:30 for one of the outage areas, 6:00 and 8:00 for another, and gives no estimate for the third area. You can check the latest status and ETRs on their website at:


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

I called DTE and they said between 5:30 and 7:30.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

Our power went out here in the 300 block of Main Street, but came back on seconds later. I thought maybe the east coast grid blew again.

UM Rocks

Fri, Jun 29, 2012 : 1:03 a.m.

I work in 300 block of Main too and ours flickered a couple of times then when out and came back on right away. I was in an elevator during the east coast blow out so I took the stairs!! :)