Utility Crews and First Responders Helping in Storm Aftermath in Grand Traverse County

"They're tired. We're all tired. But they did a great job and we kept the residents safe, so that's the main thing." - Peninsula Twp. Fire Chief Fred Gilstorff

Consumers Energy LogoUtility crews and first responders have been busy in the aftermath of this week’s storms. Consumers Energy says as many as 350,000 customers across the state lost power over the 48 hours of storms – and crews are working around the clock to get everyone back on line.

Doug DeYoung is the Consumers Energy Community Affairs Manager. He describes the two-day event as a “Top Ten storm” for the state, with outages from the Indiana border all the way to the Upper Peninsula.  In northern Michigan, he says, “Old Mission Peninsula is one of those areas that got hit really hard. And over towards Williamsburg – got hit really hard in this area. And then the outside of Cadillac; just west and east of Cadillac.”

DeYoung says crews made great progress throughout the day Thursday and will be out Thursday night as well. “We’ve got crews working 24/7 out on the lines. They’re working in 16 hour increments. They work 16 hours on and eight hours off for rest. And they’ve been going since the storm hit Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.” Consumers reports 457 crews are responding to outages, including many from other states. “We’ve got several hundred crews from out of state that are coming to Michigan.”Consumers Crew Trees

The Peninsula Township Fire Department says their first call for help during the storms was for a family of six that was in distress out in the water – they sent their rescue boat out to assist in getting them back to shore. Lt. Ethan Passalacqua says, “It took some planning before we got out the door to launch, to figure out which way were going to go. What the weather condition was, what the wave heights were. Working with the Coast Guard, that really enhanced our ability to plan our route going out there as well.”

Meanwhile fire crews have been clearing downed trees off of roadways up and down the peninsula. Chief Fred Gilstorff says, “Anything that’s up in the power lines we don’t mess with. What we do mess with is when it’s across the road and it’s blocking us from getting to residents. Then we’ll go ahead and clear the road.

“The last 48 hours have been very busy out on the peninsula,” the Chief says. “All together in the two days of the 10th and 11th we had about 28 runs. Obviously with being an elderly community we worry about power outages. Because a lot of people need either medical attention or supplemental oxygen, things like that at home.”

Chateau Grand Traverse was one of the customers to lose power. “Every day lost, it really compounds itself. We’re just dead in the water with no power,” Eddie O’Keefe says.  “When we lose power we lose the ability to operate our office. We can’t do payroll, we can’t deal with the people in the inn and cook them breakfast. We can’t operate our computers. We can’t really do anything. We can’t serve food because the refrigeration’s down.”

But power came back on sooner than O’Keefe expected – at least at the winery. “We were down about 24 hours, we missed a full day of business. But I live out here on the peninsula and they’re saying the power at my house might not come back until mid-day Sunday.”

Consumers CrewsDeYoung says crews are working as fast as they can, and reiterates they’re working in shifts around the clock. “We have crews, you know, obviously all working as quickly as possible to try to alleviate those outages that are pushed out to Saturday. But unfortunately we are going to have some customers who are not going to see power till Saturday. We’re asking those customers to be patient with us as crews are working. Crews are trying to find all the problems in the lines but when you have multiple trees down and multiple line entanglements it takes time to clear those.”

By about 8:00 pm Thursday, the number of Consumers customers affected and without power had dropped to 192,000. You can view the updated outage summary by clicking here, and see the latest outage map here. Power Utility

Consumers Energy also has a safety reminder. DeYoung says, “I’d just remind people that if you see a downed wire to make sure you stay at least 25 feet from it, don’t drive over it. Don’t walk around it. Just safely distance yourself from those downed wires. You never know if there are energized – and we encourage people to think they are always energized – so stay away from them. Secondly if you’re going to use a generator make sure that you have a safe location, that fumes and the carbon monoxide from  generators are not getting back into your house, your trailer, wherever you’re using that generator. So you can stay safe and keep your family safe.”