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Posted on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 10:16 p.m.

Thousands of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County residents could be without power until the weekend

By Suzy Sherman

Thousands of Washtenaw County residents could be without power until the weekend depending on the length and severity of the winter storm that blew in Wednesday, a DTE spokesman said.

Power has been restored this morning in some neighborhoods, including the area near South Maple and West Liberty.

And four westside Ann Arbor schools were closed this morning because of the storm: Wines, Haisley, Dicken and Forsythe, school officials reported on the district's webpage.

The storm - at various times packing rain, snow flurries and wind gusts of 40 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.

A power line also was knocked down across I-94 at Jackson Road, closing the expressway in both directions, and backing up traffic for miles. There were numerous accidents and spin-offs reported on I-94 and other area roads.

“We have 11,000 customers in Washtenaw County that are currently without power,” DTE spokesman John Austerberry said Wednesday night. “The winds are still very strong, and we expect new outages throughout the evening and into next morning.”

“We will be out doing repairs through the day Thursday, Friday and likely into sometime Saturday,” he said.

The blast of high winds and winter weather that started Wednesday morning wreaked havoc around Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. Earlier in the day, M-14 at Main Street was shut down because of downed power lines on the roadway. The highway reopened about 2 hours later.

One of DTE Energy’s main transformers at the Hemlock substation at Maple Road and West Liberty Street, caught fire around 6 p.m., cutting power to 6,300 customers on Ann Arbor’s west side, Austerberry said.

Jonathan Greenberg of Ann Arbor said he was driving home with his son, Noah, when they saw a series of flashes and explosions as they turned west onto Liberty from Stadium Boulevard. He said as they approached Maple Road there was a massive explosion and a huge flash of light, followed by flames.

"I've seen a few things blow up, but never a substation," he said. "That was pretty cool."

Shortly after that, I-94 was closed in both directions near Jackson Road because of a downed power line across freeway.

Around 9 p.m. - just as some drivers stuck in the traffic backup reported they were running out of gas - Michigan State Police started turning around westbound traffic before Jackson Road onto the eastbound side, back to Ann Arbor-Saline Road.

DTE’s first priority, Austerberry said, is to repair any outages affecting public health and safety, such as hospitals, nursing homes and police and fire stations. He said was not aware of any outages in those facilities around the county.

“After that, we prioritize which repairs will restore the most customers,” he said, noting that the crews are already working to restore Hemlock substation transformer.

The Ann Arbor Municipal Airport’s Automated Weather Service last night reported winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph.

Thursday’s forecast calls for temperatures of 17 to 21 degrees with wind chills around zero. Twenty- to 30-mph. winds are expected from the west throughout the day with gusts to 40 mph, and there is a 50 percent chance of snow.



Sun, Dec 13, 2009 : 6:58 a.m.

With all the complaining about power outages I must say I'm very lucky to be living where I am, which is on the old west side. In the 18 years I've lived here I know of two power outages (meaning more than a minute) and one was because the whole eastern coast went black. So, my question is...what makes the old west side so much less prone to outages than other parts of A2 and how can DTE provide this service to everyone?


Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 1:45 p.m.

I would hope that there are engineers who specialize in this that look at the problem of power outages, which occur regularly. Did they ever permanently fix the grid that knocked out electricity for millions earlier this decade? Stimulus money would have been well-directed to this. Or money from the 2 wars that Obama defended when winning his "peace" prize. When will these "leaders" realize that these domestic issues are more important than killing people overseas?


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:48 p.m.

everyone who blames DTE could you please tell what they could have done? Please don't say "up grade" or "improve" Could you be specfic about the solutions or the problems?


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

Seems like solar is the answer to a A2 lib. Power went out at 6:30 pm, sunset is at 5:02 pm. please tell me how solar would have helped anything? Last I checked DTE cannot control the weather. The biggest problem in A2 are the people not letting DTE cut the trees back from the lines!


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

A2rez Just decided not to take your word for it! After a brief search it seems there are no shortages of outings in the places you mentioned. These are from actual news accounts not opinions from either of us. But these must have been acts of God and not the fault of the electric companies! List headlines of outages in places that were mentioned as examples of better than DTE Vancouver Power Outage Nov 16, 2009 A widespread power outage across the downtown Vancouver Aug 25, 2009 Power outage hits section of downtown Vancouver Dec 3, 2009 We Energies has finished restoring power to 21000 customers in Greenfield, Greendale, and on the southwest side of Milwaukee May 15, 2009 MILWAUKEE - If you are still without power, you are not alone. Dec 8, 2009 Crews restore power after downtown Milwaukee outage Nov. 18, 2009 DENVER -- Heavy winds all along the Front Range have caused numerous power outages. Apr 4, 2009 Soaking rain and strong, steady winds have caused some power outages in the Denver area today Nov 11, 2009


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:44 a.m.

At least we won't be charged for electricity we did not get! Unlike Comcast!


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:42 a.m.

A2rez "power usually does not go out when it is 70 degrees" The key would was usually! I have lived in A2 all my 59 years so no need to lecture me about power outages here.I think my neighborhood loses power more than most so we are in need of updated infrastructure. Not saying DTE has everything together. Just saying that we need to be fair truthful in our criticism. We can not blame DTE for EVERY power outage that happens anymore than we can blame Obama or Bush for all this countries woes. Can not attest to the outages in other places so I will have to take your word for it. Not many trees in the Dakotas to knock down wires though.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:55 a.m.

Hey polecat, good point. think of all the dollars invested into overtime and contracting out crews to restore power. These dollars could be invested into upgrading their infrastucture and reducing the amount of outages. We should also keep in mind that no business nor person is perfect. Could forward all these thoughts and comments to DTE to let them know what their customers are thinking. Hey DTE, a productive & proactive approach to providing service to your customers is a good thing. Perfection in business and our personal lives is a work in progress. Improve, improve, improve. I should hope DTE is listening to its customers. Hey, do you share these type concerns to the appropriate service providers so they know what we are all saying and can improve their services to us? The cool thing about vs Ann Arbor News is its 2 directional (if that makes sense?) and can be a productive tool.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:51 a.m.

@Edward Vielmetti--great job on the map of the power outages. Very useful. Love it!


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:39 a.m.

More reason for us to start going Off -grid, Using DTE energy as supplemental and backup. Every house should have solar panels and small vertical wind generators. Government should help subsidize the sales and installation of such products. Also install geothermal in all houses. That would also decrease our utility bills and production of greenhouse gasses.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:37 a.m.

Are there shelters available for those who are cold? If so, the paper ought to list the locations. Checking on neighbors, especially the elderly and infirmed is an excellent idea, as well.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:08 a.m.

Yes - you can blame DTE. I have worked for utility companies across North America - Vancouver, Toronto, Milwaukee, Denver AND DTE - since the 1980s. DTE has the worst record I have ever seen regarding power outages. They also have a more dangerous (compared to other utilities) policy for cutting off power in the winter for non-payment. What is even more amazing to me is that people say, well it's the weather, what can they do? DTE could do a lot! The weather is far worse in the Dakotas, most of Canada, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Rocky Mountains and the U.P. - and people in those places experience significantly fewer power outages. And jcj, I have lost power here on 70 degree, sunny, no wind days (once for two days). DTE does one of the poorest jobs - compared to ANY OTHER utility in northern U.S. or Canada - of maintaining their distribution system.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:35 a.m.

I checked this website last night numerous times between 5pm and 645pm and found absolutely NO updates on the M-14, I-94, Maple/Liberty/Jackson Rd situations. I had no idea that all the traffic lights were out, I-94 was shut down, & M-14 had re-opened. I wish I had another source or that info could be passed along in a timely manner.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:20 a.m.

azzicit: as someone who has to write medical certifications for people to get their power turned back on when they are in poverty and it turned off by DTE, I can assure you that DTE does not have lists of people who have medical needs, or at least it is woefully incomplete. Everyday, they turn off electricity in houses where there are people with life-saving equipment powered by electricity, infants and the elderly. And yes, I think that these people would appreciate concern by the city when there is no power. You may not remember when an elderly man froze to death last year in Michigan when a power company turned off his heat, even though he had a lot of cash in his house, but was too confused to pay his bill. They just came and disabled his electricity in the middle of a cold spell, and that was it for him. He was a WWII vet, and had worked hard all his life. So no DTE is not very organized, and they will turn off heat, even when it is 10 degrees out.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:59 a.m.

in4mation I would like to know what you do or did for a living? Every time the power goes out does not mean DTE is at fault. Did they cause the high wind? Are they the one's that cause trees to fall on lines. Nobody wants them to trim the tree limbs near their house but then they are the ones that scream the loudest because they are out of power. I have seen utility workers seemingly loafing in their trucks at different times. But I also have to acknowledge that the power usually does not go out when it is 70 degrees and clear.It is usually rainy with lightening strikes or windy and cold. And almost always dark! I doubt if there are many of us that would even think about being outdoors at that time (easier to be on the laptop complaining)let alone working in such dangerous conditions. I for one applaud these workers and thank them and their families for their willingness do do this. THANK YOU! A little preparation goes a long way. My power went out at 6pm by 6:15 I had it back on and was watching the news. We almost felt guilty when we had all the comforts and our neighbors were without.( we purposely kept the lights low not wanting to rub it in) But then I realized we had power because we had done the preparation. I realize not everyone can afford a standby generator( neither can I ). My fix cost me about $500


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:56 a.m.

yeah, way to go god.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:55 a.m.

Edward Vielmetti - thanks for the link to the DTE Power Outage map. It's really helpful. I appreciate seeing the extent of the problem. So thankful to have power on again.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:25 a.m.

You can't blame DTE for the weather, but you can blame them for not upgrading their equipment and making it more resistant to the weather.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:15 a.m.

I am shocked my power did not go out on Ardmoor! I left my garage door open, just in case.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:11 a.m.

Power came on around 5:00 am in the Crescents (neighborhood around Wines) but nearby schools are still closed.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:53 a.m.

I'm not trying to be a smart aleck but I wounder if a tree blew over on some lines


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:46 a.m.

information-last I checked DTE has not yet figured out how to control high winds,weather ect..


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:07 a.m.

I have grand kids at the 800 block of south maple before you get to liberty wondering if their power is back on before i make the trip to see..Spoke to them last nite and they wanted to wait it out!! CONCERN


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:56 a.m.

Several schools are CLOSED today December 10 due to power outages: Dicken, Forsythe, Haisley, Wines


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:55 a.m.

To Concerned Citizen: The substation involved is on Maple,east side of the street, just north of Liberty, next to the autobody repair shop.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:47 a.m.

Hey Annarbor28, can you imagine the uproar of big brother going door to door asking what kind of medical conditions each resident has. The People in the People's Republic of A2 would be all upset that the gov't was collecting the info. The power companies know if their customers have special equipment for health reasons or at least people can tell them.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:56 a.m.

South maple and Liberty is back up. Thank god.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:49 a.m.

We have been back up for about 20 minutes. I'm over on Maple between Pauline and Liberty. Nice job for once DTE.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:41 a.m.

paragraph 2 is correct, paragraph 7 is wrong. Now I'd like to talk to my neighbors who make fun of me for using a kerosene heater.

Concerned Citizen

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:34 a.m.

Having been on W. Liberty St. and seen the flashes in the distance, I am curious as to exactly where the substation is located. ( Just for clarity, paragraph 7..."Hemlock substation at Jackson Road and West Liberty Street" is not a location in Ann Arbor, so...) can anyone say exactly where the substation is located? Thank you.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:18 a.m.

Power is on at S. Seventh between Pauline and Stadium. The guys in the DTE truck flipped breakers on the pole. I ran out and thanked them. They were friendly and in a hurry to get to the next pole. Never hurts to thank people for a job well done.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:48 a.m.

Haisley and the surrounding neighborhood are still out as of 1am. Posting from my phone :P


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:06 a.m.

We're back up too! Good job DTE.


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 11:55 p.m.

Mine is back on...Thank you God and DTE


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 11:40 p.m.

Does anyone know if they have cancelled school for ann arbor public? I will have to drive my kids to school, in fear of being blown away frozen waiting at the bus stop!


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 11:23 p.m.

I hope this is happening, ie neighbors checking on each other. But a systematic approach would be better, as with the elderly and the disabled, there can only be a very small margin of error. There are personally few things that I have needed government for, and help during an emergency situation is one of them. I would hope there is a plan for this type of emergency during the extremely cold weather. If not, we will hear of tragedies. Is this any less valid a role for government than providing welfare longterm, that is, now providing help to the most vulnerable needing assistance short-term? Think evacuation during Katrina. The elderly without heat are that vulnerable. They often cannot ask for help, or provide for themselves.


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 10:40 p.m.

Why is it always up to the Govt (City) to take care of everything. Neighbors should check on neighbors like the old days.


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 10:17 p.m.

Unfortunately, I don't think the city checks on anyone. Its up to us to look out for our neighbors.


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 9:56 p.m.

Thanks for the information! Please update when more info becomes available.


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 9:39 p.m.

I hope that people will look out for their elderly neighbors and help them out. The elderly can be very frail, and can quickly succumb to hypothermia when going without heat. The City should get whoever is available to go through neighborhoods and help those who are disabled or elderly and need assistance. There are those dependent on oxygen machines and nebulizers who will have a hard time without electricity. Does the City have an organized approach to this?