MLive's Blackout Blog
Saturday, August 16, 2003
 
We will soon be posting stories from the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Muskegon Chronicle, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Saginaw News and the Flint Journal.
 
DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, other utilities bring customers back on line


By JOHN PORRETTO

Associated Press Writer

DETROIT -- DTE Energy restored power to most of its 2.1 million customers by Saturday morning, a day after the utility's chairman said it still could be Sunday before all power is restored in southeast Michigan.

Tony Earley, the utility's chairman and chief executive, said he and others continue to focus on restoring power to DTE's service area, which extends from the Thumb region through Detroit and south to the Ohio state line.

Earley likened the network to an intricate highway system. As of early Saturday, the utility said power was restored to all but about 50,000 of its customers affected by the Thursday blackout.

"We have many of what would be equivalent of the major highways energized, and now we're starting to work to energize some of the local highways," Earley said.

He said crews helped restore power to Detroit's sewage system and to one of the city's major water pumping stations. Doing so allowed DTE to restore power to some sections of Detroit earlier than expected.

Earlier Friday, Consumers Energy had returned power to nearly all of its 1.6 million Michigan customers. Consumers Energy initially reported 10 percent of its users had lost power _ from Coldwater to Monroe on the southern part of its system, and from Flint south to Detroit on the eastern side.

The Lansing Board of Water and Light said around noon Friday that power had been returned to all of its customers. The utility has about 97,000 total customers.

Earley reiterated that customers continue to play a vital role in restoring power. He said it was important for people to limit their use of electricity once their power returned. That will expedite the utility's effort to spread power to areas that remain without.

"Please, when the power comes back, don't click your (air conditioner) down to 62 degrees," Earley said. "If it's hot, use a fan."

Earley again said Friday evening the utility was focusing on restoring power and not on what caused the outage. He said he expected several investigations by agencies such as the North American Electric Reliability Council and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Investigators focused Friday on an electrical transmission loop that encircles Lake Erie. The cause of the blackout, which affected the Northeast and Midwest, remained elusive.

"We continue to believe that there's no indication there was a failure of any sort on our system, that the problems here were caused by disturbances from outside the system," he said.

Earley said the sequence of events also remained undetermined.

"Without data from other companies, we can't tell where we were in the sequence," he said. "All we can tell is what happened on our system. Virtually all of our power plants, we know, went down almost simultaneously."

Consumers Energy president and chief operating officer Dave Joos has said the outage happened without warning, but the utility's equipment worked as it was supposed to.

He said an apparent power imbalance on interstate distribution circuits triggered a system that works similar to circuit breakers in homes. The imbalance apparently tripped the breakers, shutting down the plants.

"There was an imbalance between supply and demand to the east of us and, almost instantaneously, that caused an imbalance of supply and demand in our system and the breakers opened," Joos said.


 
Michiganians deal with challenges of life without power

By DAVID RUNK

Associated Press Writer

DETROIT (AP) - Neighborhood by neighborhood, the lights came back on Friday and Saturday as Michiganians began to recover from a massive blackout that left them in the dark and in some cases without water and gas


Crews restored power to parts of the state affected by the largest blackout in American history, while about 50,000 of the estimated 2.3 million customers affected a day earlier found themselves still without electricity.


DTE Energy had warned residents Friday that it could be at least until the end of the weekend before power is restored to southeast Michigan. Given that outlook and temperatures in the 80s, it wasn't surprising that Brian Howse of Redford wanted to go boating instead of stay in his home without air conditioning.


"That's the easiest thing to do _ instead of baking at home," said Howse, 41, who had the day off from his job as a production supervisor and was waiting to get gas in Brighton. "They're telling us to use (it) as a three-day weekend."


Gov. Jennifer Granholm declared states of emergency in Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. All are in the southeast corner of the state. She also signed an executive order to allow gas from western Michigan to be shipped to the Detroit area.

Friday night, Detroit and Wayne County officials celebrated how smoothly things were going as the area recovered from the massive outage.

"If the people of this city have had a finer 29 hours I don't know when it is," said Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan.


Officials said crime in the city remains at a normal level and there appears to be no abnormal spikes.


"I hope this is the beginning of a permanent change," Duggan said.


Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said, "Detroit in a very, very, very tremendous way has stepped up. What a difference 29 hours makes."


Kilpatrick said officials had not begun to tally the cost of the outage but it's not something weighing on his mind.


"At this point we're not even worried about cost," he said, noting the city may seek to apply for federal relief once the amount is known.

The new head of the Michigan Public Service Commission, Peter Lark, said the three-member commission planned Monday to order an investigation into what caused Michigan to suffer the largest power outage in its history.

Power clicked back on with a whir and a hum about noon Friday in Mike and Betty Sowle's Southgate home. The couple had made do entertaining visiting relatives by candlelight, but later relaxed in front of constant news coverage of the blackout.

"We are one of the lucky ones," Betty Sowle said. "Earlier, they said it would be through the weekend and then what do you do but have a big barbecue to eat all the food that is going bad?"


The family was obeying orders to not shower or use water.


"We're laying low to try to help everyone else out," Mike Sowle said. "Just because we have power we don't have to use it all."


In the shadow of Tiger Stadium, about 80 cars lined up, half facing the opposing traffic, waiting for a spot at one of the few gas stations downtown where the pumps worked and where traffic lights were starting to come on.

Lisa Van Buren, 39, of Detroit said city and state officials should have planned for such a contingency _ not just in providing emergency aid, but in helping boost the electrical infrastructure to ensure the effects of such outages would be minimized.

"Still, overall, this city is blessed," said Van Buren, who had been waiting in line for an hour-and-half, with her 18-year-old daughter and her seven-week-old grandson in the back seat.


"My priority now is to get gas and then make it to Meijer to get formula for the baby. He's almost out of food," she said. "I didn't have enough gas to make it there."


Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties already had declared local states of emergency. Some communities in the affected areas set curfews and others issued alerts for residents to boil water before drinking or cooking with it. Kilpatrick said the 11 p.m. curfew for minors would be strictly enforced Friday.


Emergency officials say North Oakland Medical Center in Pontiac evacuated more than 100 patients after a fire late Thursday in a generator room caused backup power to fail. There were no injuries reported related to the fire.


Other hospitals hit by the blackout remained open on backup power. At University of Michigan hospitals in Ann Arbor, five babies were born overnight _ including at least one high-risk birth _ as generators kept the lights working.


The outage around 4 p.m. EDT Thursday shut off the lights and made air conditioners and refrigerators useless from the southeastern part of the state north to Lansing. The Detroit suburb of Dearborn gave away free dry ice on a first-come, first-serve basis. And Detroit set up cooling centers at several locations.


DTE Energy said it had restored power to about 2.05 million of its 2.1 million customers by early Saturday morning, while other utilities restored service on Friday.


DTE Energy executives said they didn't encounter the equipment problems they initially expected, which might have delayed restoration efforts.


Instead of having to replace five ruptured discs that were damaged on turbines when pressure became too high Thursday afternoon, they were able to repair some of the equipment, said Ron May, DTE Energy's senior vice president for energy distribution.


The discs are designed to rupture when pressure builds, minimizing damage to the turbines, which can take weeks to repair.


"It provides us with a great opportunity to replace something that's meant to self-destruct," May said. "Essentially that issue is behind us. Those have been repaired and most of the plants are in some mode of start-up as opposed to some mode of disrepair."


In the 24 hours following the outage, Detroit police made 118 felony arrests _ about normal, Kilpatrick said.


Detroit police canceled all vacations to increase the law enforcement presence.


The outage was responsible for a small explosion at the Marathon Ashland refinery about 10 miles south of Detroit, Melvindale Police Chief Sam Pedron said. Police evacuated one mile around the 183-acre complex and sent hundreds of residents to seek shelter elsewhere.


No one was injured in the blast.


Events such as the annual Woodward Dream Cruise classic car fest were to go on _ lights or no lights. But at other events such as the African World Festival in downtown Detroit's Hart Plaza, disgruntled and disappointed vendors muttered as they disassembled their stalls, readying for a long road-trip home.


"We come here every year and we never have a problem. Then we get this," said Ava Salyang, 42, who is originally from Gambia but now lives in New York City. "We're going back to New York. ... not that things are much better there."


To help deal with water problems, the National Guard was distributing 27 large tanks of water, known as a water buffalo, to hospitals and airports. Granholm said 76,000 bottles of water have been donated by Meijer to the state's emergency operations center.


Meijer donated 144,000 bottles of water to Wayne County. Wal-Mart donated two refrigerated trucks for use while the Wayne County morgue was without power, county Executive Robert Ficano said.

Wayne County officials received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency for a one-time dump from the Wyandotte sewage treatment facility into the Detroit River.

Ficano said the plant officials were working on boosting capacity, which was at 25 percent as of 4 p.m. EDT.

"It's a race right now so that we don't have to do another dump."

He advised residents to not swim or fish in the area until tests are conducted.

Kilpatrick said two of the five Detroit Water & Sewerage department pumping stations were still running below normal as of 4 p.m. EDT, but added that waste water treatment is fine.

"We're asking people to stay home and open the windows," Kilpatrick said. He said that city housing officials had visited all of the 11,000 to 12,000 people in public housing and had distributed water.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport remained open Friday with limited operations, spokesman Mike Conway said. About 1,500 people spent the night at the terminal _ a small portion of the 80,000 to 90,000 who visit the airport daily.


Associated Press Writers Alexandra R. Moses in Lansing and Tarek El-Tablawy and Amy Starnes in Detroit also contributed to this report.


Friday, August 15, 2003
 
Governor gives details on state of emergency and power restoration

By KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN
Associated Press Writer


LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Jennifer Granholm appeared on national television Friday night to describe how the ongoing power outage is affecting southeast Michigan.

Her top concern is getting water flowing again to residents, she told cable station CNBC. She also was keeping an eye on possible problems at the heavily populated area's sewage treatment plants and hoping that a Friday night rain storm wouldn't cause overflows of raw sewage.

The governor said the state faced a monumental challenge in getting so many power plants affected by the outage back up and running. Although DTE Energy had restored power to more than half of its 2.1 million customers by Friday evening, it appeared likely that would be Saturday or Sunday before all electric service was restored.

Granholm said Michigan residents overall were coping well with the stress and inconvenience.

"There was a great recognition that this was a time for people to pull together, and not to be adversarial, not turn an emergency situation into a disaster," Granholm said. "I'm very proud of the citizens not just for not looting, but for coming together to help one another."

She warned during a news conference earlier in the day that anyone caught trying to take advantage of the situation would be stopped. She said the state attorney general wouldn't tolerate excessive prices being charged for necessities such as water, gasoline and ice.

The blackout struck Thursday afternoon, shutting down lights and air conditioners and trapping people in elevators from southeast Michigan to Lansing.

By Friday morning, the governor had declared a state of emergency in Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. The counties are all in the southeast corner of the state, where the outage was expected to last until the end of the weekend.

Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties already had declared local states of emergencies on Thursday.

An executive order signed by the governor Friday enabled gasoline from western Michigan to begin being shipped to the Detroit area, where the lack of electricity left most gas stations unable to pump gas. The move is expected to send nearly a million gallons of gasoline to southeast Michigan by Sunday.

A lack of drinking water in the broad area served by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department also was being addressed, she said. The National Guard had on hand 27 large "water buffalo" tanker trucks it planned to use to supply hospitals, airports and residents, and several retailers were together donating hundreds of thousands bottles of drinking water.

Cooling centers where residents could go to escape the stifling heat were being opened in Macomb and Monroe counties as well as Detroit. Oakland County was prepared to open its own centers if needed, Granholm said.

Fifty state police troops had been dispatched to help Detroit in two precincts until the power returned, the governor said. The Michigan Department of Transportation was moving generators to local governments and emergency centers that needed them.

The state was behind in processing family support checks by a day and was having trouble getting applicants signed up for food stamps and similar programs, but delays were easing, she said. The State Fair in Detroit will not open until power is restored.

State offices in Lansing were open for business Friday and the state's computer systems were working fine except in a few isolated cases, the governor said.

She praised emergency officials as well as people who helped their neighbors during the blackout.

"We have mitigated what potentially could have been very serious consequences," she said.

 
Michiganians deal with challenges of life without power

By DAVID RUNK
Associated Press Writer


DETROIT (AP) - Faced with life without power and in some cases water and gas, Michiganians spent Friday waiting in long lines to get necessities and took steps to stay cool as the lights slowly came back on.

Crews restored power to parts of the state affected by the largest blackout in American history, but about 1.3 million of the estimated 2.4 million customers left in the dark a day earlier found themselves still without electricity.

DTE Energy warned residents that it could be at least until the end of the weekend before power is restored to southeast Michigan. Given that outlook and temperatures in the 80s, it wasn't surprising that Brian Howse of Redford wanted to go boating instead of stay in his home without air conditioning.

"That's the easiest thing to do _ instead of baking at home," said Howse, 41, who had the day off from his job as a production supervisor and was waiting to get gas in Brighton. "They're telling us to use (it) as a three-day weekend."

Gov. Jennifer Granholm declared states of emergency in Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. All are in the southeast corner of the state. She also signed an executive order to allow gas from western Michigan to be shipped to the Detroit area.

The new head of the Michigan Public Service Commission, Peter Lark, said the three-member commission planned Monday to order an investigation into what caused Michigan to suffer the largest power outage in its history.

Power clicked back on with a whir and a hum about noon Friday in Mike and Betty Sowle's Southgate home. The couple had made do entertaining visiting relatives by candlelight, but later relaxed in front of constant news coverage of the blackout.

"We are one of the lucky ones," Betty Sowle said. "Earlier, they said it would be through the weekend and then what do you do but have a big barbecue to eat all the food that is going bad?"

The family was obeying orders to not shower or use water.

"We're laying low to try to help everyone else out," Mike Sowle said. "Just because we have power we don't have to use it all."

In the shadow of Tiger Stadium, about 80 cars lined up, half facing the opposing traffic, waiting for a spot at one of the few gas stations downtown where the pumps worked and where traffic lights were starting to come on.

Lisa Van Buren, 39, of Detroit said city and state officials should have planned for such a contingency _ not just in providing emergency aid, but in helping boost the electrical infrastructure to ensure the effects of such outages would be minimized.

"Still, overall, this city is blessed," said Van Buren, who had been waiting in line for an hour-and-half, with her 18-year-old daughter and her seven-week-old grandson in the back seat.

"My priority now is to get gas and then make it to Meijer to get formula for the baby. He's almost out of food," she said. "I didn't have enough gas to make it there."

Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties already had declared local states of emergency. Some communities in the affected areas set curfews and others issued alerts for residents to boil water before drinking or cooking with it. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said the 11 p.m. curfew for minors would be strictly enforced Friday.

Emergency officials say North Oakland Medical Center in Pontiac evacuated more than 100 patients after a fire late Thursday in a generator room caused backup power to fail. There were no injuries reported related to the fire.

Other hospitals hit by the blackout remained open on backup power. At University of Michigan hospitals in Ann Arbor, five babies were born overnight _ including at least one high-risk birth _ as generators kept the lights working.

The outage around 4 p.m. EDT Thursday shut off the lights and made air conditioners and refrigerators useless from the southeastern part of the state north to Lansing. The Detroit suburb of Dearborn gave away free dry ice on a first-come, first-serve basis. And Detroit set up cooling centers at several locations.

DTE Energy said it had restored power to more than 700,000 of its 2.1 million customers by late afternoon Friday, while other utilities restored service earlier in the day.

DTE Energy executives said they didn't encounter the equipment problems they initially expected, which might have delayed restoration efforts.

Instead of having to replace five ruptured discs that were damaged on turbines when pressure became too high Thursday afternoon, they were able to repair some of the equipment, said Ron May, DTE Energy's senior vice president for energy distribution.

The discs are designed to rupture when pressure builds, minimizing damage to the turbines, which can take weeks to repair.

"It provides us with a great opportunity to replace something that's meant to self-destruct," May said. "Essentially that issue is behind us. Those have been repaired and most of the plants are in some mode of start-up as opposed to some mode of disrepair."

In the 24 hours following the outage, Detroit police made 118 felony arrests _ about normal, Kilpatrick said.

Police Chief Jerry Oliver described the city as calm. He also downplayed his earlier comments on looting. He described those 22 incidents as minor larceny such as taking beer from stores _ not breaking into windows.

"Today has been a very calm day," Oliver said.

Detroit police canceled all vacations to increase the law enforcement presence.

The outage was responsible for a small explosion at the Marathon Ashland refinery about 10 miles south of Detroit, Melvindale Police Chief Sam Pedron said. Police evacuated one mile around the 183-acre complex and sent hundreds of residents to seek shelter elsewhere.

No one was injured in the blast.

Events such as the annual Woodward Dream Cruise classic car fest were to go on _ lights or no lights. But at other events such as the African World Festival in downtown Detroit's Hart Plaza, disgruntled and disappointed vendors muttered as they disassembled their stalls, readying for a long road-trip home.

"We come here every year and we never have a problem. Then we get this," said Ava Salyang, 42, who is originally from Gambia but now lives in New York City. "We're going back to New York. ... not that things are much better there."

To help deal with water problems, the National Guard was distributing 27 large tanks of water, known as a water buffalo, to hospitals and airports. Granholm said 76,000 bottles of water have been donated by Meijer to the state's emergency operations center.

Meijer donated 144,000 bottles of water to Wayne County. Wal-Mart donated two refrigerated trucks for use while the Wayne County morgue was without power, county Executive Robert Ficano said.

Wayne County officials received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency for a one-time dump from the Wyandotte sewage treatment facility into the Detroit River.

Ficano said the plant officials were working on boosting capacity, which was at 25 percent as of 4 p.m. EDT.

"It's a race right now so that we don't have to do another dump."

He advised residents to not swim or fish in the area until tests are conducted.

Kilpatrick said two of the five Detroit Water & Sewerage department pumping stations were still running below normal as of 4 p.m. EDT, but added that waste water treatment is fine.

"We're asking people to stay home and open the windows," Kilpatrick said. He said that city housing officials had visited all of the 11,000 to 12,000 people in public housing and had distributed water.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport remained open Friday with limited operations, spokesman Mike Conaway said. About 1,500 people spent the night at the terminal _ a small portion of the 80,000 to 90,000 who visit the airport daily.

 
Detroit-area residents drive for miles to get gas, water

By ALEXANDRA R. MOSES
Associated Press Writer


MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Detroit-area residents took to the freeways Friday morning to find gasoline and water, creating slowdowns on exit ramps in mid-Michigan and forcing some gas stations to close their pumps.

Marcus Reynolds drove about 60 miles from his Farmington Hills home to buy gas, water, ice and batteries.

"I don't have anything at home," said the 26-year-old as he put eight gallons of water into his shopping cart at the Meijer grocery store in Ingham County's Meridian Township. Store workers were busy restocking the nearly bare shelves.

Along the 40-mile stretch of Interstate 96 from Brighton to Lansing, vehicles backed up on freeway exit ramps trying to reach communities that had power. In Brighton, the Meijer gas station closed its eight pumps about 7 a.m. and put yellow caution tape around them.

That didn't deter some customers, who began to line up at the pumps anyway.

Brian Howse, 41, of Wayne County's Redford Township, sat on the tailgate of his truck with a cup of coffee, waiting for the tanker he'd been told was coming to replenish the supply.

Howse said he wanted to get enough gas for his truck and to fill up two gas cans of fuel for his boat.

"If I'm going to have the day off, I might as well go boating ... instead of baking at home," he said.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed an executive order Friday allowing gasoline from western Michigan to be shipped to the eastern side of the state.

The state had to get a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since gas sold in southeast Michigan generally has to be formulated differently than that sold in the rest of the state.

Many service stations in the Detroit area couldn't sell gas during the power outage because they had no electricity to run their pumps.

Granholm urged people to avoid hoarding gas. She also asked them to conserve by not using fuel unnecessarily and didn't seem too enthusiastic about Howse's decision to go boating.

"We very much encourage people to conserve," Granholm said. "We have scarce supplies. I would suggest recreational boating is not a necessity."

Meijer Inc., based in Walker, planned to bring 300,000 gallons of gas a day for up to three days for use on the eastern side of the state, Granholm said.

Meijer was donating the transportation, but planned to charge for the fuel, the governor said.

Several retailers _ including Meijer, Ice Mountain and Great Lakes Distributing Co. _ donated bottled water for use in the Detroit area, and the National Guard is making water available in 27 "water buffalo" tanker trucks for use by southeast Michigan hospitals and residents, Granholm said.

Water and ice also were scarce in some areas, and state officials warned businesses against inflating prices.

"We are taking a massive influx of calls about gas gouging," said Sage Eastman, spokesman for Attorney General Mike Cox. "Ice and water is something we're getting a lot of calls about."

Eastman said no legal action has been taken so far.

Motorists looking for fuel were backed up onto the freeway at exits in Howell and Fowlerville Friday morning. By afternoon, gas stations near the Okemos exit just before Lansing were overflowing with customers, many from southeastern Michigan.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. planned to donate water to housing complexes in Detroit, where many older residents live.

Brian Vago and his wife Christine, who drove about 75 miles from Garden City to the Meijer in Meridian Township, filled the back of their SUV with six-packs of bottled water they planned to bring to family members, including their parents.

The couple said they had enough bottled water to last through the middle of next week.

"I'm not going to trust the water until they tell me I can trust the water," Brian Vago, 33, said.

Granholm also encouraged grocers and restaurants to donate perishable items for immediate consumption rather than throw them out.


 
Police: Dream Cruise to continue despite blackout

Associated Press

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) - Drivers may have to wait in line for gas to fill up their classic cars, but the annual Woodward Dream Cruise was expected to roll this weekend despite the electricity blackout.

Another big event didn't fare as well. A concert at Comerica Park featuring Aerosmith and Kiss scheduled for Friday night was canceled.

Law enforcement officials from communities along the 16-mile stretch of road from Ferndale to Pontiac met Friday and decided the annual Oakland County gathering of classic car buffs would take place in a slightly abbreviated form.

"People will have to be extra cautious," said Royal Oak Deputy Police Chief Thomas Wightman.

Traffic signals were out along the route and many area businesses were shuttered. But Wightman said police made changes aimed at making the event safe, power or no power.

About 2 million people were expected to turn out for the event, which officially takes place Saturday. People usually show up on days leading up to the cruise, but when the blackout hit police urged them to stay away.

"A lot of people obeyed our request to stay off last night, and the ones who didn't were courteous when we asked them to leave," Wightman said.

On Friday, police planned to end the cruising on Woodward Avenue at 8 p.m. instead of 10 p.m., Wightman said. On Saturday, they planned to end the cruise at 8 p.m. instead of the usual 9 p.m. so people could leave before dark.

The African World Festival in downtown Detroit's Hart Plaza was canceled. Vendors muttered as they disassembled stalls, preparing to leave.

"We come here every year, and we never have a problem. Then we get this," said Ava Salyang, 42, who originally is from Gambia but now lives in New York City.

"Usually, we can make some money," said Salyang, whose stalls sell African crafts and clothing. "This time, we're going back with nothing."

Like many vendors loading rental vans and trailers, Salyang worried about making the long drive given the gasoline supply shortage. Others spoke of covering the costs of their trip to Detroit.

"We lost money on this, with the rental of the van, the trailer and paying for the hotel," said Bakima Lah, a Mali native now living in New York.

Soap opera star to miss Women's Expo

A soap opera star scheduled to appear this weekend at the Women's
Expo will not be able to attend because of the power outage that continues
to affect New York and parts of Michigan this morning.

Catherine Hickland of "One Life to Live" was to be featured on the
main stage of the expo Friday evening.

Other events including free health screenings, product and cooking
demonstrations, guest speakers and special exhibits will go on.


- Marjory Raymer, Flint Journal

 
Granholm declares state of emergency, orders gas brought in from west Michigan

By KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN
Associated Press Writer


LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Friday declared a state of emergency in Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties, her spokeswoman said.

Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties already had declared local states of emergencies. The counties named by Granholm are all in the southeast corner of the state, where blackouts continued to leave many residents without power or air conditioning.

She also signed an executive order that would allow gas from western Michigan to be shipped to the Detroit area. The move is expected to send nearly a million gallons of gasoline to southeast Michigan that can be pumped from trucks if gas pumps remain inoperable.

The National Guard is distributing 27 large tanks of water, using "water buffalo" tanker trucks, to hospitals and airports.

Granholm said 76,000 bottles of water have been donated by Meijer to the state's emergency operations center. Ice Mountain is donating 380,000 bottles of water to the center, and Great Lakes Distributing Co. is distributing 300 cases. Wal-Mart is sending water to housing centers in Detroit.

The new head of the Michigan Public Service Commission, Peter Lark, said the three-member commission planned Monday to order an investigation into what caused Michigan to suffer the largest power outage in its history.

Granholm has urged Michigan residents to stay calm and take precautions during a blackout that affected cities from the southeast part of the state to the state Capitol.

She said during a Friday news conference that Michigan residents should be proud no one so far has tried to take advantage of the blackout.

"There have been no incidents of looting that we are aware of in response to this power outage," she said. "The citizens of Michigan have really come through."

Granholm was scheduled to speak Friday morning about the electrical outage and the effect it has had on Michigan on two morning news shows, "Good Morning America" and the "Today" show, as well as with CNN and MSNBC.

But technical difficulties kept the Lansing stations she was at from connecting with the national shows, Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said Friday morning. The governor considered heading for the public television station where she did her Thursday night televised address, but that station couldn't do it either, Boyd said.

The governor canceled her Friday morning inspection of the Michigan National Guard troops at Camp Grayling to deal with the power outage.

The governor said she expected state offices in Lansing to be open for business Friday morning. Communications director Genna Gent said employees who work in state offices in Detroit will be allowed to stay home, but state workers elsewhere in the state will be expected to work if their offices have electricity.

She added that the 71 hospitals in the affected region all had sufficient generating capacity to deal with patients until power was restored.

The governor began her address Thursday by reiterating President Bush's comments that the power outages weren't the result of a terrorist attack. She told reporters afterward, however, that changes made after the Sept. 11 attack two years ago made it easier to respond to the widespread blackout.

"Post-9-11 has made us very prepared and ready to hit the ground running," she said.

Granholm said she worried when the power outage hit that it could be related to terrorism.

"I think it was the first thing on everybody's mind ... that there was a problem much deeper than just the lights going out," she said. Within an hour, however, assurances came that the outage was not an act of terrorism.

The governor spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge Thursday night and said the state's emergency operations center was in touch with others in states affected by the blackout. The state got its center, which allows the state to have an open line of communication to local and federal officials, running at what the governor called "full tilt" by 8:30 p.m.

Granholm offered some tips for people to cope with the blackouts, including conserving water and staying off the roads. She also said that residents, particularly in Detroit, should boil their water before drinking it or stick to bottled water.

The governor's Lansing home is in the area affected by the blackout. But the home has a generator, so Granholm planned to stay in her room above the garage Thursday night. The 1950s home is being renovated over the summer.

The outages, which hit Michigan about 4 p.m. EDT, caused gridlock on major roads, affected air travel, trapped people in elevators and prompted officials to call for residents to remain calm. Officials also evacuated the state Capitol.


 
Michigan lawmakers call for hearings into cause of blackout

By DEE-ANN DURBIN
Associated Press Writer


WASHINGTON (AP) - Michigan lawmakers on Friday demanded hearings on the cause of this week's multistate blackout as soon as they return to Washington in September.

"I intend to ask some very tough questions of federal authorities about how such a disaster could happen," said Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Many lawmakers were traveling during the August recess and were unavailable for comment, their aides said Friday. But at least two Michigan representatives on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said they want hearings as soon as possible.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell of Dearborn, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said once hearings are held, lawmakers may need to offer solutions in legislation that is separate from a massive energy bill now before Congress.

The Senate and House have passed different versions of the energy bill, and a committee of Senate and House lawmakers is reconciling differences in those bills.

"We may need to put targeted reliability legislation on the fast track and not let it get bogged down in the broader energy bill," Dingell said.

That may cause some friction in the Michigan delegation. U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, a Brighton Republican who also is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said it's not too late for lawmakers to add changes to the energy bill.

"I think this just highlights the importance of that energy bill that we've got to get done in the fall," he said.

Rogers said such a blackout was not unforeseen, which is why GOP lawmakers pushed to include incentives for companies to improve their energy infrastructure in the bill. He said companies have been hamstrung by environmentalists who oppose new power facilities.

"We need to get our friends on the extreme left to understand that we have got to have an energy bill," Rogers said.

Dingell and Michigan's five other Democratic representatives voted against the energy bill when it passed the House, in part because they said it was full of unnecessary subsidies for energy companies.

"It gives away billions of dollars to powerful industries courtesy of the taxpayer," Dingell said at the time.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., said Friday that he will hold a hearing on the blackout as soon as lawmakers return in September. Among those Tauzin said he will ask to testify are Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Pat Wood.


 
Energy secretary overseas during worst U.S. blackout

By DEE-ANN DURBIN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - It's the worst blackout in U.S. history. So where is Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham?

Abraham made no appearances and released no statements Thursday as the blackout darkened an area from Connecticut to Michigan, including New York City.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the energy secretary under President Clinton, was all over the airwaves. Richardson blamed the blackout on the country's "Third World electricity grid."

It turns out Abraham was on a work-related trip in London. Energy Department spokeswoman Jeanne Lopatto said Abraham was scheduled to return to Washington by Friday afternoon.

In a statement released Friday morning, Abraham, a former Republican senator from Michigan, urged consumers in the affected areas to conserve energy and unplug major appliances until stable power is restored.

"Utility crews are working to restore the remaining service, to determine the cause of the outage and to take steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future," he said.

Abraham has been in Europe all week. On Tuesday, he test drove a fuel cell vehicle at a DaimlerChrysler AG facility in Germany. He was in the Netherlands Wednesday, promising $3 million for radioactivity detectors in the busy port of Rotterdam.

 
Power outage triggers local rush to the pump

The Flint Journal

Where did some folks turn when the power went out?

The gas pump, of course.

Apparently nervous drivers began queuing up at the pumps within
minutes of news of Thursday's national power outage.

"It got pretty crazy pretty fast," said Ann Hix, a cashier at the
Quik Sav at Grand Blanc and Linden roads in Mundy Township. Cars were
blocking entrances on both sides of the corner site at 5 p.m.

Some drivers were openly worried and preparing for the worst.

"It's pretty scary. When something like this happens, you've got to
wonder if it could be terrorist attacks," said Kellie Talmage of Flint,
who was filling up at the Meijer station on Hill Road in Mundy Township
shortly after 5:30 p.m.

"Ever since 9/11 I get paranoid about this kind of stuff."

Talmage said her next stop after filling the gas tank was to stock
up on bread, canned goods and other staples.

"If there's any chance the power is gonna be going out here too, I
want to be able to have a full tank of gas. I've got two kids and I want to
be able to get around if I have to," Talmage said. "I'm already stocked up
on water."

But few drivers admitted to any panic, even as they waited in line
for up to half an hour to pump gas.

"I know what's going on, but that's not why I'm getting gas. I was
just on empty," said Megan Christensen of Swartz Creek.

Most drivers said they were filling up as their regular routine. A
few said they were topping off their gas tank as a precaution.

"I'm not too concerned. I had enough gas to get home and back to
work tomorrow," said Jeff Clark, a Flint Township resident who works in
Brighton.

"I usually get gas near where I work, but with the power outages down
that way, I thought I might as well fill up here just in case."

Some drivers also noted gas prices that were 10 cents or more
higher than the previous day's.

"I just came from up north and wondered why the gas was so much
higher down here," said Mundy Township resident Maxine Smith. "It was $1.66 up
north and it's $1.88 down here. Now I know. I bet it's that power
outage."

Then she grinned.

"But I've got a full tank now."



 
Commuters caught downstate by outage; traffic snarled, cellphones
useless


Elizabeth Shaw
Flint Journal staff writer

Genesee County - It was a long ride home Thursday for Tami and
Mike Csapo of Fenton, who were caught among countless commuters struggling
to make their way out of the Detroit area after Thursday's massive power
outage.

The couple had just left in separate cars from a medical
appointment inWest Bloomfield Township when things went dark.

"Mike commutes it every day so he knows all the roads. All I could
dowas follow him and try not to get lost," Tami Csapo said.

"The cellphones wouldn't work so we were yelling back and forth out
thewindows and making hand gestures. It was a mess."

Thousands of area folks who commute to the Detroit area were in the
same boat. They got home much later than usual after navigating the slow
crawl of traffic that hit metro Detroit freeways after the blackout.

Other people had concerns besides the local power outage as they
worried about loved ones stuck in New York City and thought back to that
horrible day on Sept. 11, 2001.

For the first half-hour, Tami Csapo said, Sept. 11 was all she
could think of; Mike, an Oakland County waste management executive, was at a
conference in Washington, D.C. on that date.

"It scared me to death when they started saying the whole east
coast was out. All I could think was, Oh no, not again,' " she said, her voice
breaking with emotion.

"He was gone the first time and this time he was in his car right
in front of me but I couldn't reach him again. And then you think about
your kids at home but you can't call them either. I felt so incredibly
alone."

Csapo wasn't the only commuter whose first thoughts flashed to
worries about a possible terrorist attack.

"I'm sure most people at some point today thought it could be
something bigger than some mechanical failure, especially when the early reports
were mistakenly reporting fires at gas refineries," said Jonathan Schechter,
whose normal commute home from West Bloomfield to northern Oakland
County stretched from one hour to nearly three.

Most of it was spent on northbound I-75 between Bloomfield Township
and the Sashabaw Road exit south of Holly.

"I didn't see a single traffic light working on the entire drive
home," said Schechter, a West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation naturalist. "It
was like the Dream Cruise gridlock without the Dream Cruise," he joked,
referring to the annual car festival slated for Saturday along Woodward
Avenue in the Detroit area.

The power outage hit close to home in more ways than one for
Schechter, who grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., ten miles from the Niagara Mohawk power
station where some have speculated the blackout originated.

"I was in high school during the big blackout (of Nov. 9, 1965). At
first my mom blamed it on me and my next door neighbor Don," he said,
laughing."We were always playing around with electricity and short wave
radios, so she was sure it was something we did."

The power failure also kindled thoughts of Sept. 11 for Flint
resident Mary Blakley, who has two sons living in New York City. Her son Ronald
works in New York's theater district. Another son, John, an attorney for
Morgan Stanley, missed the commuter train on Sept. 11, 2001, that would've
taken him to his office on the 59th floor of World Trade Center Tower Two.

"Back during Sept. 11, I was worried out of my skin. But this time
I didn't even know what happened until John called and said they were in
a blackout but it was nothing to do with terrorists.

"And Ronald always takes the subway to work but he goes in late on
Thursdays, so I knew he wasn't one of the people trapped down there,"
Blakley said. "But it shakes you up just the same."

Csapo agreed.

"As much as you try to put it away, it's all still there. All it
takes is something like this to bring it out," Csapo said.

"It's kind of scary to think we all depend that much on
electricity, and what could happen if it's gone, no matter what's causing it.

"It makes you realize we really aren't as safe as we think we are."



 
Water woes hit area worse than trimming electricity use

Bryn Mickle, Elizabeth Shaw, Ron Fonger and Chad Swiatecki
Flint Journal staff writers

Blackouts took a back seat to water worries as widespread power
outages in Detroit blocked the flow of water to Flint and other communities
dependent on the Detroit water supply.

Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright ordered a ban on
outdoor water use throughout the weekend and said this morning residents should
continue to boil drinking water as a precaution even after Detroit
started pumping fresh Lake Huron water here at about 4 a.m. today.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Consumers Energy said it was critical
for customers who have power to cut back as much as possible on air
conditioners, washers, dryers and other appliances as utility crews in
the Midwest and New York work to restore electricity to millions.

"We're asking businesses and industry to curtail or close today and
residential customers to turn things off," said Kevin Keane, spokesman
for the utility, which provides electrical power for thousands of
Flint-area residents.

The multistate power failure spread through Michigan at 4:11 p.m.
Thursday, knocking out electricity in neighborhoods from Fenton to
Flushing to northern Genesee County and stirring fears as word spread that the
outages reached New York and Canada.

"My first thought was terrorists," said Jenniffer Walter, a Clio
restaurant owner.

About 2,600 Consumers customers were without power in the Flint
area this morning, but they were expected to have electricity back by noon.

In the Detroit area, where most electrical customers are served by
DTE Energy, power was slowly being restored today, reports said.

But for many area residents, the biggest impact of the power
failure was on water.

Water reserves dropped to critical levels this morning before the
county started refilling storage tanks. Wright said customers might see
discolored water this weekend because of pumped-up chlorine levels and flushing
designed to keep bacteria out.

Before the county could run dry of water - after Detroit lost
electricity to power its pumping and treatment stations - Wright picked
up millions of gallons from the backup water systems of Mt. Morris, Grand
Blanc Township and other communities.

The inconvenience from water restrictions didn't bother Burton's
Kristi Hilbrecht.

"I'll just be cautious and try not to use so much water," said
Hilbrecht. "Its not a big deal, just that we'll be sweating from the
heat."

Area restaurants were forced to buy ice and replace soft drink
mixes with store-bought 2-liter bottles. Even with precautions, one area
eatery manager said business suffered.

"People are very concerned when these things happen. It doesn't
matter if you do it right, if you boil the water five minutes or 10 minutes,
some people will still be afraid," said John Peera, district manager for
Redwood Lodge, Bubba's and Bubba O'Malleys.

Other businesses, however, thrived during the outage.

Motorists were backed up a half-mile at two Holly Township gas
stations with drivers looking for a fillup.

"The only time I've seen it this busy was when 9/11 hit," said Mike
Little of Davison, a clerk at a gas station at Grange Hall and Holly
roads in Holly Township.

A Highland Township man said he was forced to drive to Holly
Township after he found the pumps at stations in Hartland and Fenton were out of
service.

"It could be worse - it could have happened in the middle of
winter," said Ed Hazel.

Cashiers and stock handlers scurried to cover frozen food shelves
and check out customers when the power went out at Bueche's Food World in
Flushing.

"Thankfully, we still had a good crew on duty, at least 20 people,
so we got everything done we had to in about 45 minutes," said assistant
store director Kim Hall.

"We had all the customers checked out and out the door by 4:30 p.m.
Then all we do is cover everything with plastic and cardboard, and make sure
nobody opens the coolers. I've been through this quite a few times, but
it's always crazy."

Customers were calling within minutes of the power's return at
about 8:53 p.m. to see if the store would reopen, Hall said.

Richard Wagonlander of Flushing was out walking when the lights
winked back on along the west side of the river, as power returned to parts of
Flushing and Flushing Township.

"It was kind of strange seeing all the lights out from Bueche's
Food World west, but it was business as usual on the other side of the
river," Wagonlander said, chuckling. "I'm sure it never affected the bars at
all."

Genesee County 911 dispatchers spent much of the afternoon and
evening fielding worried calls about water and electricity. By 10 p.m., county
911 had received more than 600 calls but reported no major medical
emergencies or incidents during the outages.

Hurley Medical Center in Flint went to its emergency backup
generators for about an hour at 5:30 p.m. then began using bottled water hours
after officials told the hospital about the drinking water concerns.

The blackout frustrated some travelers at Flint's Bishop
International Airport, where two flights were canceled and about 60 passengers on two
flights to Detroit ended up in Flint.

Mike Rozny of Grosse Pointe was flying home from Hartford, Conn.,
when the pilot announced 15 minutes before landing that the plane was headed
to Flint instead of Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

"I'm very grateful that it's just an inconvenience," said Rozny,
who first feared a terrorist attack.

A flight from Minneapolis also was diverted to Flint, while
scheduled flights to and from Atlanta were not affected.

Two late Northwest Airlines flights to Detroit and one Continental
Airlines flight to Cleveland from Flint were canceled late Thursday. No
flights had been canceled from Flint this morning.

 
Coming up soon
We will soon be posting stories from the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Muskegon Chronicle, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Saginaw News and the Flint Journal.

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