'There's definitely been a change.' DTE preparing for increasing storm events

Posted at 9:58 PM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 02:19:29-04

(WXYZ) — Another round of storms, another round of damage. High winds brought down trees and branches across metro Detroit, falling on power lines and even on homes.

“We heard some cracking going on and then the tree started falling very slow over the house,” said Kaelynn Euseary, who lives in Oak Park.

Euseary and her friend Nautica were sitting in their car out front, as the tree came down in their backyard. It crashed into their neighbor's car, knocking over the chimney as it also crashed into the bathroom.

“This is like a movie because it feels so slow," Euseary said. "Like I saw it fall and heard the crash.”

Down the road another tree brought down a DTE distribution feed which sends power to several substations, leaving thousands in the dark.

”This is crazy," said Oak Park resident Stephanie Kaulfersch. "I got two kids. We're without power. They cant give us a date or time.”

DTE said two storms Wednesday had winds from 60 to 75 miles per hour tearing through metro Detroit and leaving more than 700,000 homes without power.

“Loud noise, I thought it was actually a tornado coming through,” said Clawson resident Blake Callahan. "I saw that the branch covered the entire road, it was like that for a couple of hours.”

In Clawson, the storms brought down tree branches into a home, damaging the roof and gutter leaving the neighborhood covered in debris.

“It was nasty, it was a very vicious storm,” said Clawson resident Carol Kalinski.

DTE says they had reported 4,000 downed lines from the storm. As they work to fix those lines, they also give them an upgrade.

“Our new standard as we rebuild these lines is steel poles," said Heather Rivard, Senior VP of Electric Restoration. "I don't know the exact wind speed a steel pole can withstand but it's substantially higher.”

DTE says the frequency of high wind storms has doubled, with five major storms in the last eight weeks. DTE's President and CEO Jerry Norcia was out surveying the damage, saying they’re now spending triple the amount to prepare for the changing weather.

“We started a very aggressive tree trimming program which is what helps abate power outages during high wind events,” Norcia said. "We’ve got about 1,000 workers on site 365 days a year trimming trees, which is double what we had before.”

DTE says subdivisions built after 1960 have their lines underground, but the cost to bury lines in older neighborhoods would cost nearly $700 million.

“What we found was if we spent $250,000 on aggressive tree trimming, we get the same reliability results,” Norcia said.

As the work continues, thousands of homeowners are still waiting for power to be restored hoping these storms come to an end.

“Everyone seems to be alright on the street, but definitely a little shook up,” Callahan said.