DETROIT - DTE Energy shared an update Tuesday morning after 600,000 customers lost power this weekend due to severe weather.
Estimated restoration timeline
DTE Energy officials said 91,000 customers were still without power as of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. By noon Tuesday DTE was reporting 80,000 customers without power. That number down from 140,000 as of 9 p.m. Monday.
There were 22,000 reported outages as of 8:45 p.m. Tuesday.
"We remain on target to meet our goal of 90 percent of all storm customers restored by end of day Tuesday, and the remainder by end of day Wednesday," reads a statement from DTE on Tuesday morning.
DTE said its community vans will be deployed to the locations below starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday to distribute water and ice.
- Costco on Stephenson Hwy in Madison Heights
- Kroger on John Daly and Ford Rd. in Dearborn Heights
Customers who have been without power for 120 hours or longer may be eligible for a $25 reliability credit.
Heather Rivard, senior vice president of electric distribution for DTE Energy, said some customers are on their fifth day without power after initially losing it Friday.
"We know how extremely frustrating and inconvenient it can be for customers to try to get through day-to-day life without power," Rivard said on Monday. "We are working as quickly and as safely as we can to get 90 percent of our customers restored by the end of the day tomorrow and to meet our target of getting 80 percent restored by the end of the day today."
Watch the full Monday news conference here:
DTE Energy estimated that 80 percent of the 600,000 customers who lost power over the weekend will have it restored by the end of Monday.
About 90 percent of customers are expected to have power restored by the end of Tuesday.
Power is expected to be fully restored to all customers by the end of Wednesday, Rivard said.
As of Monday morning, power has been restored to about 370,000 customers, DTE estimates.
"We also realize that that is very little consolation for the more than 200,000 customers who are still without power," Rivard said.
Two storms knocked out power
Rivard said the outages were caused by two large storm events that brought wind gusts of up to 60-70 mph to Metro Detroit.
The first storm hit the area Friday evening and knocked out power to many customers on the west side of DTE's service area -- from around Ann Arbor and up through Howell, Rivard said.
Crews had restored power to almost half of those customers when the second storm came through Saturday and affected the entire area.
Rivard said Saturday's storm was more severe, with a long line of storms that swept entirely from the north side of the service territory to the south side.
"Right now, (the outages are) still pretty concentrated across the entire territory," Rivard said. "We do have our mobile command center staged in Livonia because that is one of the areas with larger numbers of outages. We also have community vans in Lincoln Park, Westland, Romulus areas."
There were multiple wind reports over 60 mph, with the highest being at 70 mph in Lapeer County, Rivard said.
Trees considered No. 1 cause of outages
Rivard 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.
Crews working 16-hour shifts
Rivard said there are more than 1,100 DTE employees and contractors in the field working on restoration efforts. She said they have been joined by an additional 750 outside workers from as far away as Georgia and New York.
"We will not stop until every single customer has been restored," Rivard said. "We can't thank our customers enough for their ongoing patience and we also apologize for the ongoing inconvenience of the power outages being experienced."
She said the restoration time in terms of restorations per hour is very good because many crews have been working 16 hours per day for the last four weeks due to heat- and weather-related outages.
"For the 1,850 employees, for the most part they are on 16-hour shifts," Rivard said. "So when one set of folks go home, another set come in for 16 hours. The majority of the crews are working during what would be the daylight hours -- the first 16 hours of a 24-hour period."
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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