DETROIT (WWJ) - The number of power outages has soared to more than 650,000 in metro Detroit and the surrounding area, with a High Wind Warning in effect.
As of 9 p.m., an estimated 650,000 customers were without power across Southeast Michigan and into the Thumb.
Spokeswoman Randi Berris said they're "getting 1,000 outages a minute." Around 3,000 power lines were down, making for what the utility called the "largest weather event in DTE Energy history."
Consumers Energy, meantime, reports more than 200,000 outages elsewhere in the state.
There have been delays coming in and out of Detroit Metro Airport due to strong wind gusts; and, at Willow Run Airport, a plane carrying the Michigan basketball team blew off the runway.
Berris said hardest-hit areas have been Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties.
"And because these winds are expected to go until about 7 o'clock tonight, we do, unfortunately, expect those numbers to continue to climb."
DTE telling WWJ that they have over 600 line workers in the field Wednesday night.
The power was spotted at University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus, according to staffers. People were asked to avoid elevators.
At the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, an announcement was made over the internal loudspeaker about the high winds. People on upper floors were advised to stay away from windows, but officials say no one was asked to evacuate.
Kristen Jordan posted on WWJ's Facebook page: "I'm at the RenCen and I've never felt the building sway this much."
Some damage has also been reported as a result of the wind. Trees were blown down in a neighborhood near Lahser and Maple, in the Grosse Pointes and in Bloomfield Hills, and downed power lines were spotted by drivers on Mound Road.
Livonia and Garden City police have put out alerts asking people to stay away from downed lines. In Livonia, two cars were damaged when a large tree uprooted in a neighborhood near 5 Mile Rd. and Newburgh.
Traffic signals went out in the following areas:
- On Greenfield Rd. between 8 Mile and 12 Mile Rd.
- 13 Mile Rd. and Greenfield
- Woodward Ave. and Maple Rd.
- Merriman Rd. and I-96
- Wayne Rd. between Goddard and I-94
- Evergreen and 12 Mile Rd
- 8 Mile Rd. from the Lodge to Meyer Road.
- Inkster Rd. at 6 and 7 Mile roads
- Telegraph and Joy Rd.
Downed power lines have been reported all over. At 12 Mile Rd. and Mound in Warren, WWJ producer Sarah Porada was there when it happened.
"I heard and saw the power line pop right in front of me and explored," Porada said. "There was like a flame and a lot of smoke. I was actually a little afraid by it. I didn't know it would start a fire or what."
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts on Facebook urged residents to "keep kids and pets inside as it's too hazardous to venture out with so many lines down." He said he's approving overtime for 13 police officers to help deal with issues related to the damage.
"This is an emergency situation and all hands are needed on deck," Fouts said. So we will be fully prepared to take care of our citizens and those who travel to/through our city."
WWJ Traffic Reporter Lorna Stevens said Mound Rd. was shut down at 12 Mile Rd. due to the problem. Also, on Mound before 14 Mile Rd., the left lanes were closed because of another fallen power cable. Tipsters said 13 between Lahser and Evergreen was shut down due to fallen power lines and debris.
Other problems in the afternoon: State St., between Michigan Ave. and I-94 was blocked due to fallen power cables and a pole across the roadway. On Cadieaux, between Charlevoix and Waterloo, a fallen tree blocked the roadway there as well. Police responded to the scene at Utica and 12 Mile Rd. on reports of power poles and lines hanging over roadway.
Farmington Hills police say there are numerous trees and power lines down in the city.
To the west, in Howell a tree branch snapped on Grand River Ave. near Swan Court and a nearly toppled power line on Highlander Way. The roadway was shut down between Highlander Way Middle School and M-59.
In Barry County, WOOD-TV reported Lakewood Early Childhood Center was evacuated because strong winds blew off a section of the building's roof. Kids were being sheltered in the high school gym. No one was hurt.
In Livingston County, Sheriff Mike Murphy said emergency crews were busy dealing with small fires due to downed lines.
"It started with a couple of small grass fires, and as the wind continued to pick up we've had some trees down, some pretty good size branches down," Murphy said. "At some of the intersections, the lights are malfunctioning."
The sheriff urged drivers to use caution to avoid blowing debris and remember that, if you do encounter a blinking or dark traffic light, treat it as a four-way stop.
DTE reminds residents never to touch a downed power line or pole.
The good news: "We did know to expect some severe winds today, and our crews are ready. They're being dispatched as we speak across the service area," Berris said. "Right now they are out assessing the damage and being sure to cut power to those downed lines."
She said the winds were, however, delaying restoration efforts. No estimates were available. [To report and outage or downed line, call 800-477-4747].
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