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A Day in the life of a DTE Storm Analyst: Tackling one of biggest windstorms in Michigan history

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“When there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”

Late Activist and Poet Mattie J.T. Stepanek

The storm began early Wednesday morning on Mar. 8, with near-hurricane force winds knocking down power lines and uprooting trees. By early Wednesday evening, over 800,000 customers had lost power due to the largest weather event in DTE’s history.

Crews sprang into action even before the winds stopped blowing, pulling in additional resources from seven states to repair outages at an unprecedented pace. Among the more than 5,000 workers aiding in the restoration process, DTE’s analyst team plays a crucial role in relaying real-time data to the emergency preparedness and response team (EP&R) at company headquarters in Detroit.

Storm Technical Analyst Rich Williams credits teamwork across DTE’s departments for quickly addressing the power outage. “Throughout the storm, we’ve been collaborating toward a common goal, safely restoring power to our customers in the shortest possible timeframe.”

Williams joins a group of analysts who are called in to work 13-hour special assignment shifts to process storm reports for the EP&R team. Information is gathered from customer outage calls and DTE’s smart meters, which allows the company to read meters remotely and transfer outage data back to the analysts. The meters provide crucial information to the analysts, pinpointing exactly where the outage is located so that linemen can quickly begin the restoration process.

According to Williams’ colleague Ed Karpiel, data captured from customers and meters over the past several days helped his team predict the duration of the outages and anticipated restoration time.  “We were able to recommend how many linemen were needed for storm repair, and estimate that 90 percent of our customers would have their power restored by Sunday night,” said Karpiel.

But it was the intensity of the storm that took everyone by surprise, added 24-year DTE veteran Heather Storey. When not on emergency storm special assignment as an analyst, Storey is a manager of Operational Planning and Engineering at the company. Having encountered various levels of storm activity throughout her DTE career, last week’s wind storm damage was unparalleled.

“I was surprised how fast the outage numbers were climbing,” Storey explained. “I remember getting the call (from our emergency team) late Wednesday morning, and the outage reports kept increasing due to wind gusts not letting up.”

In fact, outages were being recorded at 1,000 events per minute – a historic rate in the industry. By late Wednesday evening, approximately two million people were impacted by the storm.

But thanks to data being captured by EP&R Team Analysts like Williams, Karpiel and Storey, linemen are able to continue locating outages and restoring power to remaining DTE customers.

“We’re proud to be playing an integral role in this storm’s restoration process,” Williams concluded. “Through teamwork and knowledge-sharing, we’re able to assist in helping return our customers’ lives back to normal.”