Weather

Michigan power line work continues, California gets breather

California got a brief break Sunday from a powerful storm that left rivers swollen to dangerous levels and brought snow to low-lying areas around LA.

ITC Transmission, a subsidiary of DTE Energy, basket trucks work on power lines.
Daniel Mears/Detroit News via AP
SMS

Some Michigan residents faced a fourth straight day in the dark on Sunday as crews continued working to restore power to more than 175,000 homes and businesses in the Detroit metropolitan area following 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 176,000 homes and businesses were without power as of about 3:30 p.m. EST Sunday. Most of those, about 142,000, were DTE customers, with Consumers Energy reporting about 34,000 of its customers without power.

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.

Historic storm brings unusual winter weather to much of California
Historic storm brings unusual winter weather to much of California

Historic storm brings unusual winter weather to much of California

More than 120,000 California utility customers remained without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us.

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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 on Monday, 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 said Sunday he's spoken with the chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment, Sen. Sean McCann, about such hearings.

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

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow said Sunday 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.

The weather service said Mountain High, one of the closest ski resorts to Los Angeles, received an eye-popping 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. Monday and will last until Wednesday for much of the Sierra Nevada, where crews were still clearing roads after last week's icy storm.

"Extremely dangerous and near to impossible mountain travel is expected due to heavy snow and strong wind," the weather service's Sacramento office warned on Twitter.

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. Emergency crews were also working to clear mountain roads east of LA that were inundated with snow and ice.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.