Editor’s Note: David Lingholm, social media specialist for DTE Energy, and Doug Sigler, senior technical engineer in DTE’s information technology department, are embedded with DTE’s linemen and contractors in Florida. They are capturing the stories of how DTE is helping with recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma.
While there are obvious differences between restoring power after a hurricane and restoring power after a winter storm in Michigan, there are also several striking similarities: Local news stations remind people during every broadcast to not use their generator indoors, even in your garage. Motorists are reminded to treat intersections with non-functioning stoplights as four-way stops. Trees planted too close to power lines are the cause of many of the outages.
What makes recovery from Hurricane Irma different to Sid Kinnard, a supervisor for Distribution Operations for DTE Energy, is the sheer number of people without power. His crews have been working in Coral Gables, just a few blocks from the University of Miami’s campus. Earlier this week, the mayor of Miami said more than 70 percent of the city was without power; statewide, about 6 million customers were impacted.
“I’ve never been in a storm with this many customers out,” said Kinnard. “At the most, 1 million customers out was the most I’ve ever been involved with.”
By far, fallen or broken trees are the leading cause of power outages in the neighborhood where Kinnard’s crews are working. Giant limbs are littering the streets and some ae impassible because entire trees were uprooted, blocking the roads. Tree trimming crews are hard at work, clearing paths for the linemen to get to the fallen lines.
The challenge for Kinnard’s crews on one street was the time it took to find exactly where the line was down. With no alleys to drive down, crews went from backyard to backyard to find the culprit that caused the lines to fall. As the crews were working, many residents stopped the men to thank them for coming down to help. As residents realized that DTE crews came from Michigan, many started relating stories of their connection to the state, even telling us about the camping trips to Bad Axe and getting ice cream at Grindstone General Store.
As temperatures climbed into the low 90s with humidity to match, homeowners were also anxious to know when they would be able to turn on the air conditioning again. For the Michigan crews, especially those who are not acclimated to the heat, staying hydrated and rested is imperative to doing the job safely – and getting the lights back on for the residents.