Widespread power outage hits downtown Detroit

Detroit Public Lighting Department says 'major cable failure' caused outage

By Halston Herrera - Digital news editor , Roger Weber - Reporter

DETROIT - Power has been restored to nearly all Detroit Public Lighting Department customers affected by a widespread outage on Tuesday. They continue to work to restore power to one school in the Detroit Public School System.

It was around 10:30 a.m. that the power outage forced the closure of several government buildings and schools. The Public Lighting Department said a "major cable failure" affected its Mistersky and Warren stations.

Video: Detroit leaders discuss power outage

DTE Energy is in the process of taking over PLD's system as part of a four-year, $200 million project to rehabilitate and install new cables, transformers and substations.

"We're not certain what happened to the cable," said Jerry Norcia, DTE president and chief operation officer. "I'm sure it's age-related."

In the meantime, rescue crews had to get people out of elevators and from the upper floors of high-rises.

"Today is another reminder of how much work we still need to do to rebuild this city," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. "There's just been so much neglected for so long."

Duggan said DTE has been focusing on areas of the system that have a history of failure to fix first.

"Every month that goes by, we'll be more and more on a more modern system and the likelihood of this happening will do down," Duggan said. "Power is starting to come back up and we're going to stay with it until it's done."

All Detroit Public Schools were dismissed early on Tuesday and Wayne State University closed its main campus.

Detroit Receiving Hospital had to switch to its emergency power systems, but said patient care was never interrupted.

Other affected buildings included the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, Joe Louis Arena, Cobo Center Detroit Historical Museum, City County building and People Mover.

"During this time of emergency, I would like to ask the citizens to be patient. Treat the major intersections as if they are a four-way stop," said Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said 911 was never affected and Michigan State Police aided the department by sending in officers to help direct traffic.

Local 4 spent Tuesday night trying to get more answers on why one critical downtown building, the Municipal Center, didn't have a backup generator after Jerri Fernandez had to be rescued from the 10th floor.

"How can this building not gave a generator?" said Fernandez. "It's 18 floors at least.

Gregg McDuffee, who runs the building, said he's presented a plan to the city and county every year since 2008 calling for a backup generator.

"What that enables us to do is keep elevators operating," McDuffee said.

It would also safeguard IT systems.

"How unusual is it for a building like this not to have a generator? It's quite unusual," McDuffee said, adding that in his nine years at the building emergencies like Tuesday's are not unusual. "They are in the dozens where we have had power outages or anomalies and we have to evacuate the center."

The backup generator would cost about $4.5 million. But McDuffee said the 61-year-old building needs about $50 million worth of work.

He said the improvements could be financed over 30 years and he's optimistic city and county leaders will finally say yes and make the rescues and complaints a thing of the past.

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