Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

Power line work continues in Michigan

California gets breather from powerful storm

- By Rick Callahan and Christophe­r Weber

Some Michigan residents faced a fourth straight day in the dark Sunday as crews continued working to restore power to more than 170,000 homes and businesses in the Detroit metropolit­an area after last week’s ice storm.

Leah Thomas, whose home north of Detroit in the suburb of Beverly Hills lost power Wednesday night, was still waiting Sunday afternoon for the power to come back on.

Thomas said she feels lucky, because while her husband is away traveling, she and their 17-year-old son have been able to stay at her parents’ nearby home, which still has power but was unoccupied because her parents are in Florida.

With her husband out of town, Thomas said it was up to her to recharge the battery to their home’s backup sump pump Sunday with her car after she went to multiple stores to find a 30-foot cable.

“I’m a strong woman. I figured it out,” she said. “Our basement is OK, so we’re the lucky ones.”

But with the local school district on mid-winter break, Thomas said some of their neighbors have been out of town and will be returning to find a mess from burst water pipes and flooded basements.

“They don’t know what they’re coming home to. I’m concerned for them,” she said.

In hard-hit southeaste­rn Michigan, still reeling from last week’s ice storm and high winds, the state’s two main utilities — DTE Energy and Consumers Energy — reported about 171,000 homes and businesses were without power as of about 6 p.m. Sunday. Most of those, about 136,000, were DTE customers.

Both utilities said they still hope to have the lights back on by Sunday night for a majority of their affected customers.

DTE Energy spokeswoma­n Cindy Hecht said some of the utilities’ customers have been without power since late Wednesday, but she did not know how many homes and businesses were in that predicamen­t.

She said the power restoratio­n efforts have proved time-consuming because of the large number of power lines that were damaged, including individual lines that link single homes to the grid.

Wednesday’s ice storm coated lines and trees with a half an inch of ice or more, and it was followed Thursday by high winds that put about 600,000 DTE customers in the dark at the storm’s peak. Hecht said that was the second-largest number of outages DTE has ever experience­d, topped only by a March 2017 wind storm that cut power to about 800,000 of its customers.

“The icing event we had this week is equivalent to a hurricane for coastal utilities. It was the amount of ice and high winds — the winds and the amount of ice accumulati­on on lines and branches,” she said.

Hecht said the utility’s meteorolog­ists have been tracking another storm system that will move into Michigan today, and the utility is “prepared to respond.”

“At this point, we are expecting the system to bring the potential for wintry mix and freezing rain tomorrow and wind gusts up to 45 mph on Tuesday,” she said in a statement.

The ongoing outages prompted some Democratic state lawmakers to call Sunday for legislativ­e hearings in Lansing to question utilities about repeated reliabilit­y issues with the electrical grid and long restoratio­n times from last week’s storm.

State Sen. Darrin Camilleri, a D-Trenton, said Sunday that he’s spoken with the chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environmen­t, Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, about such hearings.

“There will be hearings. We will be taking over,” Camilleri told WDIV-TV.

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, said Sunday that she’s angry about the ongoing outages, and took aim at DTE Energy, saying it needs to upgrade its electricit­y grid.

“The length of this outage, in freezing temperatur­es, is completely unacceptab­le. The frequency of outages and lack of reliabilit­y is completely unacceptab­le,” McMorrow said in a tweet. “... But please know I will do the work to hold DTE accountabl­e and demand improvemen­ts. They must upgrade the grid to withstand the new normal.”

California, meanwhile, got a brief break from severe weather after a powerful storm a day earlier swelled Los Angeles-area rivers to dangerous levels, flooded roads and dumped snow at elevations as low as 1,000 feet. The sun came out briefly Sunday in greater LA, where residents emerged to marvel at mountains to the north and east that were blanketed in white.

Suburban Santa Clarita, in hills north of Los Angeles, received its first significan­t snowfall since 1989.

The weather service said Mountain High, one of the closest ski resorts to Los Angeles, received an eyepopping 7.75 feet of snow during the last storm, with more possible this week.

Rain and snow were falling again Sunday in Northern California as the first of two new storms started to move in. Blizzard warnings go into effect at 4 a.m. today and will last until Wednesday for much of the Sierra Nevada, where crews were still clearing roads after last week’s icy storm.

After fierce winds toppled trees and downed wires, more than 73,000 utility customers remained without electricit­y statewide as of Sunday afternoon, according to PowerOutag­e.us. The majority of the outages were in Los Angeles.

Days of downpours dumped almost 11 inches of rain in the Woodland Hills area of LA’s San Fernando Valley, while nearly 7 inches were reported in Beverly Hills.

In Valencia, north of LA, county officials said the heavy rains eroded an embankment at an RV park and swept multiple motorhomes into the Santa Clara River, with emergency video showing one of the vehicles toppled on its side. A representa­tive from the RV park said no one was injured.

Rare blizzard warnings for Southern California mountains and widespread flood watches ended late Saturday. But Interstate 5, the West Coast’s major north-south highway, was closed off and on due to heavy snow and ice in the Tejon Pass through the mountains north of Los Angeles.

 ?? JOHN ANTCZAK — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Snow glistens on mountain peaks above Pasadena, Calif., on Sunday after a major winter storm swept the state. Snow fell to unusually low elevations in Southern California.
JOHN ANTCZAK — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Snow glistens on mountain peaks above Pasadena, Calif., on Sunday after a major winter storm swept the state. Snow fell to unusually low elevations in Southern California.

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