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Posted on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:04 a.m.

Power restored to all but 1,000 customers in Washtenaw County

By Cindy Heflin


John Zydor, 11, works on the head gear of one of three snow men he and his cousin built in Grand Rapids Wednesday.

AP photo

Scattered power outages were still affecting about 1,000 DTE Energy customers in Washtenaw County this morning, spokesman Scott Simons said following a winter storm Wednesday. The utility expects to have power restored to all those customers by late today, Simons said.

Outages canceled classes at four Ann Arbor Public Schools today: Forsythe Middle School and Dicken, Haisley and Wines elementary schools.

The storm, at various times packing rain, snow flurries and wind gusts of 51 mph, was blamed for a fire in a major power transformer at West Liberty Street and Maple Road that knocked out power to much of Ann Arbor’s west side at about 6 p.m. Wednesday. At the height of the power outage, service was interrupted for 11,000 customers.

A power line came down across I-94 at Liberty Street, closing both sides of the freeway during rush hour Wednesday and snarling traffic in the area for hours. Numerous accidents and spin-offs reported on I-94 and other area roads. A downed power line also closed a portion of M-14 earlier in the day.

University of Michigan meteorologist Dennis Kahlbaum said Ann Arbor had received 4 inches of snow since Tuesday evening. He said about an inch of that remains on the ground.

A winter weather advisory remains in effect until 10 a.m. today. An additional 1-3 inches of snow is forecast for today with another inch possible overnight. Just before 8 a.m., the National Weather Service reported a temperature of 15 degrees and a wind-chill factor of 5 below zero at the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport.

Today's high will only reach 17-21 degrees. Overnight, temperatures will drop to 5 to 8 degrees with wind chills of 5 below zero. There's a 50 percent chance of snow overnight.

Friday will bring a chance of more snow and brisk winds with highs in the 20s.

Elsewhere in Michigan, residents dealt with blizzard conditions. The National Weather Service said Thursday the storm has delivered 13.5 inches of snow to parts of southwest Michigan, where a blizzard warning remains in effect and an additional 12 inches is expected by Friday evening. More than 15 inches has fallen in northern lower Michigan.

Michigan State Police said a 58-year-old Hartford man died Wednesday in a single-vehicle crash related to bad weather in Van Buren County.

CMS Energy Corp. says about 4,400 customers were blacked out Thursday, down from a peak of 50,000. DTE Energy Co. says about 13,000 customers remain without power across the state, down from 70,000.

Tina Reed contributed to this story.



Wed, Dec 16, 2009 : 3:29 p.m.

@ed vielmetti not going to post my exact street address on a public forum, but we live in the Haisley school area. and seriously...SIX outages this year, not all of them during storm events, some were "peak usage" brown-to-blackouts during the summer months. ridiculous. what I want to know is: what DID they do to fix the transformer that blew up? and what are the doing to keep it from blowing up again?


Wed, Dec 16, 2009 : 1:43 p.m.

So, any follow-up from I live in the area of the outage, and our power has gone out SIX times this year. Like in4mation, I haven't experience electrical service this unreliable anywhere else I have lived in Michigan. Really makes me want to go out and buy an electric car (NOT!) Worst part is, we lose power and the people on the other side of the street do not, so we know reliable power IS AN OPTION in Ann Arbor, but just not for us. I don't believe for an instant that whatever DTE did last week to get the power back on represents a long-term solution to the chronic power-outage problem we have in this area of town. What is DTE doing to make our power reliable in the wake of this--and other--outages we've experienced this year? When will we have the same reliability as the people across the street?


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:06 p.m.

I doubt there is money right now for changing things here, unless DTE is one of those very rich utilities. However, it's true that in A2, so many times I come home and see the clocks flashing due to power failures, whereas in other parts of the country (specifically East Coast) this very rarely happened and it was more predictable, like from a hurricane or very major storms. This substation fire seems like it could have been preventable, gievn a better structure more suited to the climate. But there are so many good things about Ann Arbor that most of the power outages (not last night's in 12 degree weather) outweigh it. The upside down priorities of the Mayor and City Council, on the other hand...


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:52 p.m.

I live near the substation that had the fire. The worst part about losing power was not having access to information--no TV, no internet. Thank goodness for cell phones. I'm glad the power came back last night or I'd be freezing by now. Cable and internet took longer to come back. Since I'm elderly and disabled being alone when something like this happens is a little scary. One of my neighbors thankfully called to see if I needed anything.

John Galt

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:40 p.m.

I think in4mation has a point. I think there are far more power outages in this area than enywhere else I have lived (Madison, WI, Danbury, CT, Kalamazoo, Bay City, etc.) The infrastucture seems to be rather fragile. And there have been times when the power has been out locally for multiple days. I think the trees in Ann Arbor are a possible cause, but proper tree-trimming (without the locals climbing trees to prevent it) would help.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:43 p.m.

DTE has put off spending money on improving their equipment. To commend them is silly. it is one thing for a tree to hit a line, it is another for power stations to blow up because the ionvestment is there.

Thick Candy Shell

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:14 a.m.

in4mation, Where else have you lived? Was it a relatively new area that has all of the utilities underground? Was it in an area that clear cuts the trees around all of the power lines?


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:04 a.m.

@in4mation, where have you lived previously? Every city I've lived in has had harsh snow and rain storms that cause power outages.

News Watcher

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:43 a.m.

My son was doing his behind-the-wheel driver's ed lesson and was by Wide World of Sports when the transformer blew. He said it looked like lightning hit the ground. With the traffic lights out and the winds blowing snow everywhere, it was a most memorable driving lesson. Also, I'm amazed at how quickly power has been restored!


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:40 a.m.

Are there shelters for those who are without heat? I do agree that checking on the elderly and the infirmed is also an excellent idea.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:36 a.m.

Thanks for the quick response from DTE - but still the question remains how to prevent this from happening again


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:31 a.m.

in4mation, not to be confrontational, but you need to get educated about the physical realities of a city's infrasture. If you want to be sure of no downed powerlines etc, move to a new sprawl neighborhood where the power was installed underground. Yay for Detroit Edison for getting this under control this fast. They have come a long way in the last decade or 2.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:10 a.m.

@in4mation: That would be in a perfect world without 50 MPH winds. There is only so much you can do to prevent such outages. Getting power back online as quickly as they did, that's pretty good IMO. 15 years ago, I remember the A2 power outage that lasted a WEEK.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:28 a.m.

I was at Liberty Athletic club working out when the power died. Evidently, the transformer is very close to the club and someone said he saw a bright flash and a bunch of sparks showering down outside. Glad no one was standing nearby! Driving around Ann Arbor in that area at that time was pretty bad I guess. With traffic lights out on Stadium and I-94 eastbound being gridlocked for some reason, it was kind of bad. Hopefully, everyone will get their power back quickly.

Craig Alguire

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9 a.m.

What a relief that power came back in the middle of the night for most of AA. Our house was starting to get pretty cold.