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Frozen for Christmas

Thousands without power in wake of ice storm

Julie Easterday and her furry pal Duke venture outside on Sunday for a walk. Julie and Duke had to avoid a tree which fell in Depot Park because of heavy ice accumulation after a storm Saturday and Sunday. Photo by Andrea Beaudoin (click for larger version)
December 25, 2013 - Power lines and trees were encased in ice after a winter storm walloped the area over the weekend, leaving thousands without power.

On Saturday, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory, forecasting freezing rain and accumulating ice. Roads started getting slick on Saturday evening and some back roads were a sheet of ice.

As of noon on Sunday, DTE estimated 7,400 homes and businesses lost power in Independence Township, 700 in Clarkston, and 3,300 were documented in Springfield Township.

Trees could be heard cracking and falling, and broken trees lay in roads and yards. On Sunday, ice continued to fall from trees and power lines, making outdoor adventures treacherous.  

Estimated restoration times on the online DTE Outage Map posted additional delays throughout the weekend, and DTE Energy said outages were likely to keep occurring under the weight of ice accumulation.

DTE Spokeswoman Randi Barris said power outages can continue to occur several days after the storm as ice laden trees and electric lines snap.

DTE had an estimated 119,000 total customers without power, with the hardest hit areas including Lapeer, Livingston, and Oakland counties. The communities were covered with a half-inch thick ice accumulation.  

Over 2,000 customers lost power off Sashabaw and Clarkston roads, and the outage stretched north and east throughout Independence Township and into neighboring communities.  

Another stretch of outages occurred just south of Fountains on Maybee Road, west to Main Street, affecting another 2,000 residents.

Outages occurred between 11:01 p.m. on Saturday night throughout the next day. Springfield Township and Ortonville residents were among the first hit by the outage.

Pockets of purple-colored zones, meaning under 100 residents were affected, dotted the DTE Outage Map in Independence Township.  

Downtown Clarkston fared well after the ice storm, but other parts of the community were not so lucky. Olde Village café and other downtown businesses were packed as residents looked for places with power so they could get a bite to eat or do last minute shopping to prepare for Christmas.

Ice storms differ from wind storm because the damage continues on after ice remains on trees and power lines

"The work takes longer than it would in the middle of summer," she said.  

Barris said ice on power lines magnifies the impact of wind on the lines.

"When lines are coated with a quarter inch of ice, a 20-mile-per-hour wind has an impact of 80 mph wind on a coated line. A quarter inch of ice adds the equivalent of 500 pounds of weight," explained Barris.

With temperatures not expected to rise much throughout the week, the power outages could leaving many without heat and a possible dark Christmas.

DTE said the company was expecting the outages from their staff meteorologist, so crews were already out when the storm hit.  

"We knew we were going to hit hard," she said. "We had crews on standby ready to go after the storm hit.

DTE also brought in crews from other states under a mutual aid agreement.

"We had crews already in from West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio and Georgia," said Barris. "Most of the crews were already here when the storm hit."

Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.
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