Source: Sherman Publications

Iced over

by David Fleet

December 25, 2013

Area residents were not only dreaming of a white Christmas, they were also wishing for a bright one, too.

As late as Christmas morning, Consumers Energy was still reporting more than 65,000 Genesee County residents still without power.

According to Consumers Energy officials, more than 1,000 utility workers from as far away as Kansas were headed to Michigan to assist Consumers Energy with power restoration after the utility’s worst ice storm in more than 10 years.

All of the electrical workers were expected to be working on the Consumers Energy system by Christmas Day, said Mary Palkovich, the utility’s vice-president of energy delivery. As of Tuesday, more than 2,100 Consumers Energy and contractor office and field employees dedicated to the power restoration work, which affected more than 285,000 customers, or nearly 16 percent of the utility’s customers.

“We have received a great response from the electric utility mutual aid organizations in both the Midwest and Southeast United States and we thank them for their dedication,” Palkovich said. “We have often answered the call when these states have contacted us and now it’s our turn to receive this level of assistance.”

Improving weather conditions have allowed crews to focus on making thousands of downed wires safe and to restore power. However, wind on Christmas created additional outages or slow restoration work, Palkovich said.

“We know this is a difficult time for our customers, but we want them to know we are pouring as many resources as possible into this restoration effort,” she said.

Brandon Fire Chief Dave Kwapis said over a 48-hour period following the Sunday ice storm, more than 65 calls were received.

“The calls ranged from downed power lines to trees down,” said Kwapis. “We had reports of fires starting and arcing after power was restored by utility crews. Also, there are a lot of generators running out there, so be sure to shut off the generator when refueling.”

Kwapis also said the ice storm caused two structure fires in nearby Oxford Township, where Brandon responded with mutual aid.

By Christmas Day, three structure fires were reported in Groveland Township. There were no injuries.

“We had about 100 calls since Saturday morning,” said Steve McGee, Groveland Township fire chief. “We had two house fires that caused some smoke damage and was confined. In both cases the homes were operating on a generator and the fire was electrical. There was at least one chimney fire in the township, too—there’s a lot of residents out there heating their whole house with wood. I think the entire township is without power on Christmas Eve and we’ll be the last ones in the state to get our electric restored. I understand the utility company is going to put resources into assisting the most customers.”

Between Sunday and Tuesday noon, Atlas Township Fire Chief Fred Forys reported more than 30 calls.

“Lots of downed wires and fires in trees,” he said. “We had one personal injury accident. The ice build up on wires causing them to fall in the roadway has been the biggest concern—utility crews were out there clipping the live wires to prevent injury. They just can’t get to every down wire right away.”

Forys said it helped when power was restored along M-15 late on Monday.