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Posted on Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 11:02 a.m.

Underground cable source of central Ann Arbor power outage; 2,000 remain powerless in Washtenaw County

By Sven Gustafson


Dark streets and storefronts were illuminated by headlights during a power outage Saturday night at the corner of Church and South University Streets.

Jeffrey Smith |

Some businesses along the southern edge of the University of Michigan’s central campus had power restored and were open Sunday morning, though DTE Energy said an outage continues to affect around 400 homes and businesses in the area.

The outage initially started around 9 p.m. Saturday and affected customers between South State and South Forest streets from South University to Packard. The utility on Sunday said it didn’t know when power will be fully restored in the area.

“We have an underground cable problem there,” DTE spokesman Len Singer said. “We have a crew working on it, but they haven’t pinpointed what the problem is.”

Crews were inspecting electrical conduits and merge points where a number of different cables come together, Singer said.

“It’s a bit more tedious than it is to pinpoint an overhead problem, where it’s much more visible,” he said.

Power appears to have been restored to at least some businesses along South University.

“We’re open, the power’s on, it came back on about one o’clock in the morning,” said Alexis Cook, a barista at Espresso Royale on the corner of South U. and East University.

Cook said the outage mostly affected closing routines for the popular coffee shop.

“I know I came in this morning and there were bags of ice in the freezer for backup,” she said.

Cook said it appeared as though businesses along South University were open and had power. An employee at nearby Amer’s Delicatessen, on Church Street, said power had also been restored and that the eatery was open.

Sunny Bhagat, owner of the Blue Front party store at 701 Packard Street, said his store lost power around 8 p.m. Saturday and had to close down. While power came back on around 1 a.m., he said he lost considerable revenue from the outage.

“We do much business in the nighttime,” Bhagat said.

About 2,000 customers remained without power across Washtenaw County, Singer said, following a series of storms that hit the region beginning Tuesday and continued on the Fourth of July holiday and Thursday.

DTE’s outage map for the region showed a large swath of customers affected along the U.S.-23 and Carpenter Road corridor south of I-94.

Matt Dean, an assistant manager for the Circle K gas station on West Michigan Avenue, just east of U.S.-23, said many customers who live in the area tell him they remain without power. The station had to close for a few hours Thursday when it lost power following a storm but was open Sunday.

“We probably lost quite a bit (of money), just because we’re always busy,” Dean said.

About 25,000 customers across Southeast Michigan remained without power Sunday, down from 340,000, Singer said.

Contact freelancer Sven Gustafson at sventg123(at)gmail(dot)com, or follow him on Twitter.



Sat, Aug 18, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

What a protest against Global Climate Change! Thanks everyone for support the "Green Movement"! You Should be proud, You made a difference!

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.



Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

No system is perfect. Kudos to all the DTE workers out there in 100°+ heat and humidity! Not only do you have a dangerous job, but you often work in very unpleasant conditions. I would not want your job, but I sure am grateful to see those trucks in my neighborhood whenever there is an outage.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 8:40 p.m.

While most of the complainers would not spend 5 min outside in 100 degree temps. They expect dte workers to spend 16 hrs or more in a day in those temps working in dangerous conditions. Suck it up people! Your right I did not lose power.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Time to go hang out in the produce section of the new Costco. Meijers works well too.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

My father was without power.He is in his 90's. Brought him to our house.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

My parents are in their late 80's, their outages were not during a storm. It may have had to do with the system not able to handle the power usage during the heat. The heat we experienced was dangerous for some and an inconvenience for some.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

What some people do not understand is you can be without power but your neighbor have power. This has to do with which phase of power is out if all phases are not out.

Jeff Renner

Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.

I wonder if the big outage that mbill mentions down US-23 almost to Milan is real. I've seen several phantom outages on the DTE outage maps since the Thursday morning storm. It showed several square miles of Scio Twp., including our house, without power for most of Thursday, but we never lost power, nor did any of our neighbors that I know of. Maybe something to do with the new meters automatically reporting?

John Campbell

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

In Saline, we had 3 outages in 3 days: 2 hours on Thursday, 17 hours on Friday, and 6 more hours on Saturday. The communication from DTE is poor, the estimations they give are poor. I expect it is a combination of storms, high usage, underinvested infrastructure and insufficient personel (either in quantity or quality). Without facts, who knows the underlying truth, but it is odd that so many people in DTE coverage buy generators when very few people buy them in other parts of the country, because outages last minutes not days elsewhere.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 8:59 p.m.

no, it was 2,000 people including the Circle K mentioned in the article, I was at my parents on Stony Creek road when the power went out around 7pm yesterday, it came back on around 1pm today. This was their second outage, which did not occur during a storm. If you go to the dte outage map and click on the outage area it tells you how many are out.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

Drip, drip, drip - failing and inadequately funded infrastructure. So where did our rate money go? In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized DTE Energy for spending $4.37 million on lobbying and not paying any taxes during 2008-2010, instead getting $17 million in tax rebates, despite making a profit of $2.5 billion. And, of course, the CEO was paid nearly $3 million the same year...

Paula Gardner

Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 5 p.m.

The iced power line photo is coming out of the story.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

What is causing the outage south of AA almost to Milan ? What storm? Yes, I like the iced pole.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

"We have an underground cable problem there," DTE spokesman Len Singer said. With that said, I really love the pic of the above ground pole, covered with ice. ;)


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

Townie: No, I'm actually not picky. I found the photo to be most amusing; I have a sense of humor. Have a nice day.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 5:23 p.m.

Picky reader aren't you? The goal here isn't to inform... just keep us in the dark and as uninformed as possible. DTE seems to be controlling the speaking points for (like with SPARK that is never, ever criticized). The photo was to try and continue to link power outages to 'storms, etc.'. That's been the storyline from Day 1 of this mess.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

Where are the "bury the lines and everything will be fine" crowd today?

mike gatti

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:11 a.m.

Everybody say he's cool. He's cool.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 9:38 p.m.

Well Soft paw, why are you still here and not out checking out the problem?

Soft Paw

Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

Any competent tech with a TDR should be able to troubleshoot the problem in 45 minutes.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

Bury lines will obviously be more difficult to pin point and repair an issue, but it is well documented underground lines are much more weather resistant (as well as insulated). My previous home was fed by above ground lines. On average, we lost power nearly any time a storm came though. Also, when power did go down due to weather, it sometimes took days before it was restored. Currently I live in an area with underground power lines. The only time or two in nearly four years that I can recall losing power was completely unrelated to weather, which I found rather frustrating at the time (especially since seemingly everybody else around my neighborhood had power). Furthermore, when the power went down, I don't recall ever having to go more than a few hours before it was restored. Also, I find brownouts to be almost non existent.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

I worked for a company that would not allow any new facility to be built with underground power cables. The reason behind this policy was experience with facilities that already had underground cables and the problems we had troubleshooting issues, finding ground faults and keeping cable tunnels free of water.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

Many people don't realize underground lines have many problems as well including fires. It can also be more time consuming and costly to fix the problems as well. Hopefully this will demonstrate there is no easy, cheap solution.


Sun, Jul 8, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

Still here.