The cause of some power outages are as clear as day; a car hitting a utility pole, tree branches falling onto power lines, but ice? Ice is sneaky.

“It comes in, freezes over everything, causes its damage then disappears,” said Rick Foltman, DTE Energy meteorologist.

But how exactly does ice cause power outages?

Imagine a baby grand piano resting on the power lines outside your home. Too dramatic? Well, that’s ice. Just a ½-inch of ice accumulation can add 500 pounds (the weight of a baby grand piano) to a span of power line. Eventually, the added weight causes the power line to break, leaving you in the dark. Ice also makes the lines thicker, creating more surface area to catch wind gusts and making the lines even more prone to wind-related damage.

Trees fall under the heavy weight of ice too. Ice accumulation on trees causes branches to sag and break, falling onto power lines, damaging electrical equipment and causing power outages. In some cases, the damage is delayed with limbs snapping and falling long after the weather has passed.

So, why not just bury the lines? Wouldn’t that prevent weather-related outages?

It seems like a simple solution, but it’s certainly not a foolproof plan. While DTE has been incorporating more underground cables into the electrical system, and exclusively installing underground lines in subdivisions built after 1970, the cost to “underground” the entire existing system would be astronomical. An underground system is also not immune to weather-related power outages and has its own set of restoration challenges.

We know how important keeping the lights on is to you. That’s why DTE’s investing in a multi-year plan to strengthen our electric system to bring you safer, cleaner, more reliable energy in good weather and bad. Our plan calls for upgrading and replacing equipment throughout our Southeast Michigan service territory, which includes 47,000 miles of power lines.

From large-scale capital investments to trimming tree branches in your neighborhood, we’re working to build a smarter, stronger energy system.

Lookout for us in your community.