The San Juan Daily Star
Residents in Michigan endure fourth day without power
By Sam Easter, Clair Fahy and McKenna Oxenden
When Anna Capling, a labor and delivery nurse in Livonia, Michigan, heard from family members last Wednesday that their lights were flickering amid an impending ice storm, she stood up to charge her phone just in case the power went out.
Then she heard a loud boom, and everything went dark. Days later, she still has no power.
“It’s just frustrating,” Capling said. “It almost feels a little depressing because you just have no idea when it’s coming back on.”
Capling was one of hundreds of thousands of customers in southern Michigan still scrambling to stay warm Saturday as power failures plagued the region, days after a winter storm that led to at least one death.
Snow, freezing rain and wind gusts of 30-40 mph hammered the Upper Midwest overnight Wednesday, creating mayhem and coating trees and power lines in ice.
The resulting outages sent people to warming centers opened by local governments and the American Red Cross. Nearly 400,000 customers in Michigan remained without power as of Saturday evening, according to PowerOutage.us.
It’s a familiar circumstance, many residents said in interviews. According to the Citizens Utility Board, a nonprofit based in Illinois that assesses utilities across the country, Michigan is one of the worst states for power reliability.
A 2021 report from the organization ranked the state fifth worst, with the average customer experiencing more than nine hours of outages each year during a major event. Michigan is also among the worst for recovery after an outage, usually taking about six hours on average, the report said.
DTE Energy, one of the major power companies in Michigan, said that 75% of its customers would have power restored by Saturday and most of the remaining outages would be fixed by the end of Sunday. The company said more than 4,000 workers were on the ground to help restore power to over 235,000 customers throughout Detroit and Ann Arbor.
Another utility in the state, Consumers Energy, estimated that power would be restored in most areas by Sunday, but possibly as late as today for some locations. Nearly 115,000 of the company’s customers are without power throughout southern Michigan, including in Kalamazoo.
For some riding out the winter storm, this is the second power outage in six months. Severe thunderstorms in August led to blackouts across the state. Capling said she was without power for three days last summer. Both times, she lost all of her food.
“A lot of people can’t afford that,” she said. “Especially with the rising cost of groceries right now, it’s extremely frustrating and upsetting.”
Ben Saltsman, who lives in Bloomfield Township, and was without power for two days, said that he has a kind of routine now because of the frequency of blackouts. First, he empties his ice machine; he’s learned from experience that it creates a huge mess. Then, he clears his refrigerator and takes the food to friends who do have power.
“We hope they don’t eat the good stuff,” he said.
Capling said she, her husband and four of her children, ranging from 1 to 18, have temporarily moved in with her father-in-law in Pinckney. Her husband can work from home, but she has had to commute to work an hour out of her way. Her children have also missed three days of school.
“My 3-1/2-year-old is just asking when we can go home,” Capling said.
The American Red Cross has also opened four warming centers across southern Michigan, providing cots, warm meals and water. At one point, Ann Arbor, 40% of which is out of power, had four warming centers open, but it was down to one by Saturday evening, city officials said.
When Kathy Space woke up early Thursday in her home in Portage and tried to flip on the lights, she immediately knew that she was in trouble.
Space, 68, had recently returned home from the hospital after experiencing serious kidney problems. She weighs just over 80 pounds, making it difficult for her to get warm.
She and her husband, Thomas, watched as the thermometer in their home dipped into the low 60s. When she started having headaches and shortness of breath, the two decided it was time to leave.
“The lower my body temperature gets, the more things start to not function,” she added.
The Spaces tried to call hotels in the area, but many were sold out and available rooms were too expensive. Her husband found the American Red Cross shelter in Kalamazoo, so the couple packed what they needed from their home and spent Friday night there.
“It was almost a blessing, just to be able to walk in here and be given a cot,” she said. “We didn’t know it was here.”
The region was expected to have low temperatures overnight Saturday, with a low near 28 degrees, and sunny skies Sunday, with temperatures in the mid-40s before strong winds and rain move into the area, according to the National Weather Service forecast.