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Thousands without power Thursday in metro Detroit as DTE improves grid

Posted at 9:48 PM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 23:13:55-04

UTICA, Mich. (WXYZ) — If it weren’t for the generator out back, Vinnie Varacalli wouldn’t have been whipping up pizzas Thursday at Vinnie’s Italian Eatery.

Many of his neighbors in downtown Utica closed for the day after losing power.

“A lot of people think that we don’t have any power here," Varacalli said. "I went next door and they had power, but they said 'Yeah, everyone thought you guys were closed.'”

He and his wife have been trying to spread the word that they’re still open while down the road, DTE crews were working to get the power back on.

“We had some really big outages where the winds came down and hit very small areas pretty hard,” DTE Electric President Trevor Lauer. said

DTE reported roughly 65,000 customers were without power at one point Thursday, with wind gusts up to 50 mph. Lauer says 99% of the outages were caused by trees.

According to DTE's outage map, power has been restored for most customers.

“Not a lot of branches, but a lot of big trees where these strong winds came down and knocked trees over,” Lauer said. "We had a lot of trees on private property that tipped down and came over and took out spans of our infrastructure.”

The damage from those strong winds was seen all over metro Detroit. A tree fell into a home in St. Clair Shores, a power line fell into a home in Berkley and a carport in Warren was completely destroyed.

After numerous wind storms last summer left hundreds of thousands of homes without power for days, DTE vowed to improve their grid, saying these severe weather events seem to be happening more often.

“How better prepared do you feel that DTE is today to handle this spring and summer,” 7 Action News Reporter Brett Kast asked.

"We’ve done a lot of work on tree trimming, hardening circuits, fixing poles, replacing poles, replacing wire, more than we’ve ever done getting ready to come into this summer,” Lauer responded.

For now, the pizzas at Vinnie’s are still in the oven. But for him and his wife, these power outages can’t last long and hopefully won’t happen often.

“If it stays out longer than what it is, it's just going to hurt us," Varacalli said. "I can't keep running on a generator for a couple days, it’s bad on the equipment.”

DTE says there are 1,500 employees out trimming trees every single day.

Lauer also said if you have a dead tree on your property near a power line, you should contact them to have it removed.