DETROIT - DTE Energy officials said 53,000 customers are still without power as of 3:45 p.m. Tuesday after storms swept through Southeast Michigan over the weekend.
DTE said 600,000 customers lost power this weekend due to the severe weather. Tuesday is the fourth day without working electricity for thousands of people across Metro Detroit. Nearly 900 out-of-state workers are targeting the hardest hit areas in Wayne and Oakland counties.
- DTE says community vans have been deployed and will be at the locations below until 4 p.m. distributing water and ice.
- Kroger at 12 Mile Road in Royal Oak
- Kroger on John Daly and Ford Road in Dearborn Heights
- Palmer Park Golf Course on Woodward in Detroit
- Customers who have been without power for 120 hours or longer may be eligible for a $25 reliability credit. Details and claim forms are available on DTE’s Damage Claim webpage.
- Read more about it: Lost power in Michigan? You may be eligible for credit on next bill
Some of the winds this weekend clocked in at 70 miles per hour, bringing down power lines and uprooting trees. DTE said the fallen trees created the biggest obstacles and led to the majority of outages. About 2,500 wires were downed by the severe weather, according to DTE.
Adding to the frustration were technical issues on the DTE Energy website and app. Thousands of customers were unable to get an estimate on power restoration. Moreover, a lot of these same customers were hit with a rate increase earlier this year.
DTE said that rate increase helps fund tree trimming maintenance. They're spending up to $200 million each year to cut down trees to prevent more power outages.
During a news conference Monday, Heather Rivard, senior vice president of electric distribution for DTE Energy, said two-thirds of the time when customers are without power it's because of tree interference with wires or trees coming down on wires.
"One of the biggest things that we're working on as a utility for improvement -- and have been working on for the last two years and will continue for the next three years before we are completed -- is doing more extensive tree trimming along our power lines," Rivard said.
She said DTE Energy crews work with tree trimming crews to restore power when there are high winds. The tree trimming crews have to clear the trees and the DTE Energy crews have to repair equipment damage, including putting wires back up.
"A lot of the times when a storm rolls through it is trees that come down," Rivard said. It is our job and our initiative to do greater amount of tree trimming across our territory. In the areas where we've done that tree trimming, there are significantly fewer outages that occur after the tree trimming is complete. So it is our intent to finish our entire service area within the next few years."
Rivard said tree trimming is a maintenance effort on which DTE Energy is spending upward of $150 million-$200 million per year. That includes tree trimming and removal, she said.
Trouble with restoration estimates
Customers reached out to DTE Energy about being unable to view their estimated restoration time. Rivard said DTE Energy heard those complaints and takes them very seriously.
"We have a good plan internally in terms of when we're going to restore each customer on our system," Rivard said. "We have timelines laid out for when each outage will be completed. All of that information is available to us internally, but yesterday we experienced significant issues with our technology, making it more difficult for customers to see their estimated restoration times on our website as well as our mobile app, which only added, of course, to the frustration of being without power.
"This is completely unacceptable. We have been working very hard to fix those communication channels and to make sure that the estimates are available to customers."
Rivard said everything appears to be working as it should Monday.
DTE Energy is investing $750 million to $1 billion per year on the distribution grid itself to replace infrastructure and upgrade it to the latest technology, Rivard said.
"We are also very conscious of the fact that customers want affordable electricity," Rivard said. "So at the same time that we're making investments, we're also looking for ways that we can reduce our cost to try to keep the rates at a reasonable rate of inflation."
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