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Detroit Power Outage Due To Public Lighting 'System Overload'

DETROIT (WWJ) - A major power outage is affecting Wayne State University, the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, the City-County building, the Detroit Historical Museum, and the People Mover in downtown and Midtown Detroit.

"Some institutional public lighting customers are experiencing service interruption caused by extreme heat, cable failure, and routine maintenance — all combining causing system overload," said Robert Warfield, a spokesman for the Detroit Mayor's Office.

Wayne State spokesperson Jessica Archer said the campus would be closed for the rest of the day, Wednesday, after about half of all buildings — maybe 40 or 50 — lost power.  She said they would decide later about Thursday's schedule.

Passengers aboard the People Mover were directed off at the nearest station. The People Mover is closed until further notice.

At City Hall, EMS crews were called out to help a pregnant woman on the 4th floor after an evacuation forced people to walk down the stairs to safety.  Officials said she'd doing fine.

"We made sure that there was somebody was with every person that was stuck on the floors until we could get them down, said Detroit Fire Chief Gene Biondo. "When I found out that she was eight months pregnant, I said we've gotta get her out of there first."

Biondo said they were able to get power restored to the building briefly through an emergency system to get that woman and two others down on elevators.

Courtrooms at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice were evacuated and proceedings in a high-profile Grosse Pointe Park murder case were delayed.

"... The courtroom was plunged into darkness," reported WWJ's Marie Osborne. "A few very scary moments as deputies tried to make their way to their prisoner, Bob Bashara. Within seconds, though, the generator kicked on, and there was a bit of light."

Presiding judge Kenneth King said continuing problems with the city's aging electrical grid are a huge security concern.

"That's a whole different dimension in very scary proposition," King said. "Now, because we can't use the elevator, the deputy sheriffs have to escort the prisoners down a dark stairway."

"Given what happened just a few days ago, it's not a good situation," King added, referring to an incident during which a prisoner, being moved into a holding cell at the courthouse, stabbed a deputy with a makeshift knife and fled.

The lights went out at around 1 p.m. Warfield said he hoped power would be restored to all affected buildings sometime Wednesday night.

"The Public Lighting Department is asking customers, once power is restored, to only turn on lights .... not to use air conditioners or other non-essential appliances," Warfield said.

A DTE Energy spokesman said, although it's not a DTE problem, DTE crews are assisting the city in working to decrease load on the system to avoid more outages.

DTE said full restoration in the city could take up to 24 hours.

There were no reports of power problems at downtown hospitals.

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