DTE Energy explains why it's taking so long to restore power

Posted at 2:03 PM, Mar 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-11 14:03:58-05

For those still without power wondering: Why is it taking so long?!? DTE Energy President Trevor Lauer provided 7 Action News with answers.

With more than 800,000 power outages, this is the largest weather event in DTE history! The second largest, happened decades ago. A "normal" storm could trigger up to 50,000 outages for perspective.

High winds on Wednesday's knocked about 9,000 electrical wires down. In a normal storm, Lauer says there are 600 max. Crews that would normally focus on restoring power spent a couple of days addressing live broken wires to ensure safety of the community.

Over 1,000 crew members are working 16-hour shifts in below freezing temperatures handling wires with 14,000 volts. Lauer says the work is extremely dangerous and crew members need to make sure they follow protocol and do everything right.

"If our employees make a mistake, they lose their lives. While it may not look like our crews are working fast enough, the number one thing we emphasize is safety, safety, safety," he says. 

Some DTE circuits power thousands of homes, some power hundreds of homes and some power just dozens. Lauer says once they've handled issues that pose danger to the community, they begin restoring circuits from largest to smallest.

"If we go out to a circuit that has 500 people and quick restoration can get 485 of those customers back, there may be a small pocket of 15 customers that is not restored. (but) that crew is now going to the next circuit that has 450 customers out. We call this 'restore before repairs'. While we would like to get all back, in order to keep moving and get as many customers back as quickly as possible, we are going to leave that pocket of 15 out and then come back the next day as we get to the smaller pockets on our system," Lauer explains. 

The also prioritize hospitals and nursing homes and other buildings that serve vulnerable populations.
Lauer says DTE gas employees are pitching in by knocking on the doors of elderly customers to check on them and see if they need rides to warming centers.

Some customers say they didn't lose power during the storm, but they lost power afterwards. That's because DTE says in order to safely make repairs sometimes the power for an entire circuit or substation needs to be shut off temporarily.

If you see DTE workers in your neighborhood, be kind. Lauer says they've been working long hours in dangerous conditions and some of those workers still don't have electricity in their own homes.