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Two casualties, more than 300 000 without power as high winds hit SE Michigan

two-casualties-more-than-300-000-without-power-as-high-winds-hit-se-michigan

Strong winds with gusts of nearly 113 km/h (70 mph) lashed through southeast Michigan on May 4, 2018. As of late evening, more than 300 000 customers were without power as crews started to assess the damage and make repairs.

"We’ve had reports of trees and power lines down all over southeast Michigan," said Steve Considine, a National Weather Service meteorologist, according to Detroit Free Press.

A 36-year-old man doing landscaping work on his employer's property in Independence Township died when part of a tree fell on his back and trapped him in a walk-behind skid steer, the Oakland County Sheriff's Office reported. The Sheriff's Office and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the incident, Detroit Free Press reported. Another victim was hit by a falling tree while inside a car in Pontiac.

In South Lyon, a postal worker was injured by a tree that snapped in the high winds. Downed power lines caused a brush fire near Ortonville.

Power went out at the Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit, as well as businesses along one side of Monroe Street, as did some streetlights in the area. A DTE Energy official said the outages were because of a weather-related equipment failure; the lights were back on at the hotel by about 01:30 UTC (21:30 local time).

The winds moved in along a cold front, impacted most of southern lower Michigan.

"The highest wind gusts were from metro Detroit up through Saginaw and the Thumb," Steve Considine from NWS said.   

Peak wind gusts included 98 km/h (61 mph) at 17:09 UTC (13:09 local time) at Detroit Metro airport and 93.3 km/h (58 mph) at 16:44 UTC (12:44 local time) at Oakland County International Airport in Waterford. Bad Axe, in the Thumb, had a gust of 109 km/h (68 mph).

By the afternoon of May 4, about 260 000 DTE Energy customers and 88 000 Consumers Energy customers in the southeast and south-central lower Michigan were without power.

DTE Energy's outages leaped from 77 000 to 260 000 in just one hour, from 19:30  to 20:30 UTC (15:30 to 16:30 local time), said Carly Getz, a spokeswoman for the utility.

Power had been restored to more than 20 000 Consumers Energy customers by late night on May 4 – 5, with about 66 000 still without power. Officials estimated that those customers would have their power back by night of May 6, according to Detroit Free Press.

Officials urged people to stay at least 8 meters (20 feet) away from downed power lines.  

"Do not drive over it in your car. Do not touch anything in contact with a downed power line. Assume that it's live and report it, 800-477-4747," DTE Energy spokeswoman RoNeisha Mullen said.

Debra Dodd, a spokeswoman for Consumers Energy, urged people not to operate generators improperly or inside enclosed areas such as garages or basements or near air intakes, as generators can create carbon monoxide, a deadly gas.

Considine said wind storms like the one on May 4 are not unusual, though they often only pop up once or twice a year.

"We tend to get them anytime from the fall through the spring. … In the summertime, it's not uncommon to see damaging winds like this," he said. "However, they are typically associated with thunderstorms and are much more localized, not as widespread as they were (Friday)."

Featured image credit: Christopher Millette

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