DETROIT (WWJ) – A massive effort to restore power to more than a half million DTE Energy customers could last through the weekend.
DTE Energy says 800,000 homes and businesses lost power Wednesday after wind gusts topping 60 miles per hour swept across southeastern Michigan. The utility described it as “the largest weather event in DTE history.”
As of 10 p.m. Thursday, more than 515,000 customers remain without power. The outages are widespread across the region, with the hardest hit areas in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties.
DTE says sustained wind gusts equating to tropical storm levels, just shy of category one hurricane strength, caused extensive tree damage, resulting in more than 4,000 downed power lines so far.
[Check DTE’s power outage map] (updated every 30 minutes)
DTE President Trevor Lauer says crews are working around the clock to restore service, but it will take a while.
“Given the size and our history with storms like this in the utility industry, I would expect that we’ll have the vast majority of our customers back in the next couple days, but also a storm of this size is going to impact customers for days after that,” Lauer said.
At a noon news conference, he added that he expects to have 90 percent of customers’ power restored by the end of the day Sunday.
Hundreds of schools closed Thursday because of power outages. [Check School Closings List]
Wednesday’s winds fanned a blaze that killed five people in a Detroit apartment building and pushed a plane carrying members of the University of Michigan basketball team off a runway during takeoff southwest of Detroit.
At the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, an announcement was made over the internal loudspeaker about the high winds, and people on upper floors were advised to stay away from windows.
The wind also caused damage across the metro area, bringing down thousands of power lines. Trees were blown down in a neighborhood near Lahser and Maple, in the Grosse Pointes and in Bloomfield Hills. In Livonia, two cars were damaged when a large tree uprooted in a neighborhood near 5 Mile Road and Newburgh. Traffic lights also went out in several areas.
Forecasters say a 68 mph gust was reported at Metro Airport around noon Wednesday, while winds around 60 mph were reported at Willow Run Airport, Detroit City Airport and in Ann Arbor, Monroe and Troy. A 58 mph gust was reported at Oakland International Airport in Waterford.
[To report and outage or downed line, call DTE Energy at 800-477-4747]
DTE crews continue to work 16-hour shifts around the clock to restore power, and additional crews from Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, New York and Pennsylvania will be in Michigan Thursday to assist.
© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.