- Michigan experiences more power outages than any other state in the midwest.
- Many Michigan residents are still without power following Wednesday’s ice storm.
- Most customers will have their power restored by Sunday evening
Two days after a rare ice storm barreled through the Upper Midwest, power outages continued to be a far bigger challenge for Michigan than for any of its neighbors.
And it’s not even close.
More than 700,000 Michigan homes lost power following the mid-week storm, and that number had barely declined by Friday afternoon, to about 680,000, according to Power Outage U.S. which analyzes national utility data.
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By comparison, Illinois had about 12,000 customer outages Friday afternoon. Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio combined had fewer than 3,000 outages. And Minnesota, which also received up to 21 inches of snow during the storm, had a grand total of nine household outages Friday, according to the data.
The storm closed schools, canceled flights and caused slippery conditions throughout the Upper Midwest. Michigan’s two largest utilities blamed thick ice, trees and large population centers for the heavy power loss.
“The number one cause of outages in Michigan is trees coming into contact with our lines,” said Josh Paciorek, a spokesperson for Consumers Energy. Consumers Energy reported 237,000 homes still without power and 8,000 downed lines on Friday, most in the southern and western part of the state, The company said it hopes that power is restored by Sunday evening but expected crews to still be working to restore power on Monday.
“The 2023 ice storm blanketed southern counties in Michigan with a half inch of ice,” Paciorek said. “That ice is heavy, increasing the weight on tree branches by 30 times and adding about 500 lbs (equivalent to the weight of a baby grand piano) to the power lines.”
Nearly 460,000 DTE customers are still without power as of Friday afternoon. The company predicted 90 percent of customers will have power restored by Friday evening and 98 percent of customers will have their power restored Sunday evening. Downed power lines will also be restored by Friday evening.
“We have a very populated service territory,” said Dana Blankenship, senior communication strategist at DTE. “A lot of people live in southeast Michigan, so there are a lot of homes and a lot of lines to take care of.”
According to the U.S. Census over 4 million people live in southeast Michigan, many of them covered by DTE, whose territory spans from Lake Michigan to Lake Erie.
Early Friday, Matt Paul, a DTE executive vice president of distribution operations, described the storm in historic terms.
“We saw ice amounts up to three-quarters of an inch throughout southeast Michigan and that’s a level we haven’t seen in nearly 50 years,” Paul said at a press briefing.
Climate change has also played a role in more outages attributed to extreme weather in recent years. Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization, issued a report in September noting that Michigan has compiled the highest number of power outages relating to weather of any state in the nation, after Texas.
“Over the past several years,” said Paciorek of DTE, “we have seen severe storms becoming more frequent, with more and more weather events featuring severe and damaging wind gusts as storms move into the state off of Lake Michigan.”
The timing of the outages is not ideal for DTE, which is asking the Michigan Public Service Commission for a rate increase just months after receiving its last one, according to our reporting partners at BridgeDetroit.
Consumers Energy said it has over 500 crews along with help from states like Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia assisting Michigan residents in the restoration efforts.
Since outages began Tuesday evening, Consumers said the company has restored power for 90,000 customers.