Uprooted and damaged trees interfering with power lines caused Farmington Hills resident Monica Cardenas’ parents’ home, in the Forest Park neighborhood, to lose power during the July 19-20 storms.

Uprooted and damaged trees interfering with power lines caused Farmington Hills resident Monica Cardenas’ parents’ home, in the Forest Park neighborhood, to lose power during the July 19-20 storms.

Photo provided by Monica Cardenas


Farmington-area residents looking for answers after recent power outages

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published August 6, 2019

 DTE Energy restoration crews were working 16-hour shifts last month to restore service to communities July 3 following a thunderstorm.

DTE Energy restoration crews were working 16-hour shifts last month to restore service to communities July 3 following a thunderstorm.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

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FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — After two sets of severe storms — during the July 19-20 weekend and again July 29 — hit the area, knocking out power for approximately 5,000 residents July 19-20 and another roughly 2,000 residents July 29, the city and its residents are looking to DTE Energy for some answers.

Maureen Mansfield, 61, a resident of the Forest Park neighborhood near Nine Mile and Inkster roads, which was the most heavily affected area after the storms, said that as of July 30, she had been without power for seven of the last 12 days.

She first lost power in the evening of July 19. It didn’t return until Wednesday, July 24, the last day DTE projected it would have power restored for the nearly 600,000 residents across southeast Michigan affected by the storms. She lost power again after the July 29 storm, and it wasn’t restored until the afternoon of July 31.

Bill Cloutier, DTE director of customer operations for the Farmington Hills area, said the July 19-20 storms were the second largest the company has seen in its history in terms of outages.

Other residents in the Forest Park area shared the same frustration of extended periods without power. One resident, Alicia Nuccilli, 48, despite her home not being directly affected by any outages, said the outages still affected her family. Brownouts from the storms burned out the pump at the Forest Park neighborhood club her family recently joined.

“My little girl was so happy to be able to go there every day and jump in the water, and now we can’t even do that because of power outages,” Nucilli said.

Mansfield said that despite the frustrations coming from the power outage itself — having to discard food from her refrigerator and freezer; her husband not being able to work from home as he normally does because they lost internet access; the added, unbudgeted costs of takeout food; and having her daughter, who has an immune deficiency disease, suffer from heat stroke due to the lack of air conditioning — she’s primarily frustrated with the company’s extended time in responding.

“DTE has been ridiculous to get ahold of. They don’t return phone calls,” she said. “They actually called me about 7:30 this morning (July 31) from my phone call from Monday and said, ‘What can we do for you?’ … Like, seriously?”

Mansfield isn’t the only person hoping for DTE to provide some answers as to why the city has experienced what seems to be a higher number of outages this summer. Farmington Hills City Councilwoman Theresa Rich spoke out at the July 22 City Council meeting, asking for representatives from DTE to reach out to the city to discuss whether the company is meeting the deliverables it has promised — a standard of not having more than two power outages in a year-long term, according to Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey.

“I think residents deserve an answer about whether there’s really an uptick in the number of outages. It feels like right now I’m getting a lot of residents coming to me with concerns about power outages. What I don’t know is if it’s the magic of social media and I’m just hearing from more people, or whether it’s really happening,” Rich said. “I want to make sure the promises made to our residents are promises kept.”

Massey said DTE has reached out to him and the City Manager’s Office, and they are working internally on mitigating the issues.

“They (DTE) have actually talked to us. They know this is an ongoing issue, and what we’re waiting for is just to come back with an actual plan with some dates and resolutions so that we have accurate information,” Massey said.

Cloutier said that beyond coming back to the Forest Park area to continue additional maintenance and repairs, the company has committed to fixing the infrastructure of all the areas affected by these storms.

“We’ve committed to a five-year plan to make investments in excess of $900 million, up to a billion (dollars) a year over the next several years, just to completely rebuild and improve our systems, both from what folks see out in the field, as well as our advanced technology so that we can quickly restore and identify issues,” Cloutier said. “When we see that the performance isn’t up to our standards, we initiate projects to go out and investigate, so that’s exactly one of the things we’re doing in this area specifically.”

Cloutier said DTE was to start sending community vans out beginning the week of Aug. 5 to begin patrolling and looking at hotspot areas that could be at risk of failure or even power lines causing an outage for customers.

“The fact that customers are out of power at all or for an extended period of time is something we take very seriously, and it concerns us,” he said. “We do realize the inconvenience, and that’s why we’re making the investments that we are. We’re going to look at this specific area as one of our focus areas.”

Overall, Mansfield said she believes she and others should not be charged for DTE’s services while they were without power.

Due to the July 19-20 storm being categorized as a catastrophic storm, customers must have been without power for 120 hours or longer to be eligible for a $25 rebate. Customers can request a rebate by calling the company’s customer service hotline, (800) 477-4747, where they will be directed to the rebate claims department, or through the company website, newlook.dteenergy.com/wps/wcm/connect/dte-web/home/problems-and-safety-landing/common/problems/damages-claims.

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