Ice storm leaves hun­dreds of thou­sands in Mich. with­out power

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY JAMES DAVID DICK­SON AND SARAH RA­HAL The Detroit News

Af­ter a week­end of fire and ice, things should calm down a bit the next few days. But don’t be look­ing for blue skies just yet.

It could rain Mon­day and Wed­nes­day, and it will re­main colder than nor­mal, said the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice. High tem­per­a­tures will be in the low 40s Mon­day and Tues­day and reach­ing 50 on Wed­nes­day.

Still, that’s bet­ter than the mini-apoc­a­lypse Sun­day that in­cluded flooded free­ways, power out­ages, ice-en­crusted build­ings and fires started by downed power lines.

About 332,000 homes and busi­nesses were with­out power Sun­day night and some won’t get it back for sev­eral days, said DTE En­ergy.

Among those af­fected are area schools, in­clud­ing in Wayne County: Aca­demic Gar­dens Preschool, Con­cor­dia Lutheran South - Lutheran-Mis­souri Synod, David El­lis Academy WestRed­ford and Wayne County RESA.

The schools will re­main with­out power Mon­day and pos­si­bly Tues­day.

DTE said its crews are work­ing around the clock but are ham­pered by the wretched weather and danger­ous road con­di­tions. It has re­quested help from neigh­bor­ing en­ergy com­pa­nies, whose re­in­force­ments will ar­rive early Mon­day.

The util­ity said its fo­cus Sun­day was on pub­lic safety, iden­ti­fy­ing and se­cu­rity downed power lines. It re­ported that 1,000 lines had fallen in Wayne County

third of the cost of their av­er­age monthly bill and freez­ing over­due amounts.

Brown said WRAP has a part­ner­ship with Wayne Metropoli­tan Community Ac­tion Agency, which of­fers ser­vices such as fi­nan­cial man­age­ment pro­grams and sends plumbers to homes to check for leaks. Wa­ter leaks, Brown said, are a lead­ing cause of high wa­ter bills.

There are cur­rently

about 12,000 cus­tomers on pay­ments plans with the city and an­other 4,500 in the WRAP pro­gram, of­fi­cials say.

The wa­ter depart­ment also has rolled out op­tions in the last year to make pay­ments eas­ier for cus­tomers. There are now kiosks at the depart­ment head­quar­ters down­town and at stores such as Rite Aid across the city that al­low cus­tomers to pay their bills. Res­i­dents can also re­serve a spot in line at the cus­tomer ser­vice care cen­ter by vis­it­ing a web­site.

“Ev­ery cus­tomer has a path not to see a dis­con­nec­tion if they ask for the help,” Brown said. “The real chal­lenge I’m see­ing is get­ting peo­ple to ask for help.”

The av­er­age out­stand­ing bill for a cus­tomer sub­ject to shut off is $663. How­ever, most Detroit cus­tomers should see an av­er­age monthly bill of $75, Brown said.

Brown said he takes ev­ery route pos­si­ble to pre­vent shut­offs be­cause dis­con­nect­ing and re­con­nect­ing a cus­tomer’s wa­ter ser­vice can be costly.

Last year, the depart­ment spent about $3 mil­lion on wa­ter shut-offs, he said.

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