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Michigan power line work continues, California gets breather

Yoopya with Associated Press

Some Michigan residents faced a fourth straight day in the dark Sunday as crews continued working to restore power to more than 200,000 homes and businesses in the Detroit metropolitan area following last week’s ice storm.

Big Bear Mountain Resort, Calif.

California, meanwhile, was getting a brief break Sunday from a powerful storm that on Saturday left Southern California rivers swollen to dangerous levels and brought snow to low-lying areas around Los Angeles.

The sun came out Sunday in Southern California, where mountains north and east of Los Angeles were blanketed in white after snowfall at elevations as low as 1,000 feet (305 meters). Closer to sea level, days of downpours swelled rivers to dangerous levels and flooded roadways.

In hard-hit southeastern Michigan, still reeling from last week’s ice storm and high winds, the state’s two main utilities — DTE Energy and Consumers Energy — reported more than 210,000 homes and businesses without power as of noon Sunday. Most of those, about 173,000, were DTE customers, with Consumers Energy reporting about 37,000 of its customers without power.

Both utilities said they still hope to have the lights back on by Sunday night for a majority of their affected customers.
DTE Energy spokeswoman Cindy Hecht said some of the utilities’ customers have been without power since Wednesday, but she did not know how many homes and businesses were in that predicament.

She said the power restoration efforts have proved time-consuming because of the large number of power lines that were damaged, including individual lines that link single homes to the grid.

Wednesday’s ice storm coated lines and trees with a half an inch (1.27 centimeters) of ice or more and it was followed Thursday by high winds that put about 600,000 DTE customers in the dark at the storm’s peak. Hecht said that was the second-largest number of outages DTE has ever experienced, after a March 2017 wind storm that cut power to about 800,000 of its customers.

The icing event we had this week is equivalent to a hurricane for coastal utilities. It was the amount of ice and high winds — the winds and the amount of ice accumulation on lines and branches, she said.

Hecht said the utility’s meteorologists have been tracking another storm system that will move into Michigan on Monday, and the utility is prepared to respond.

At this point, we are expecting the system to bring the potential for wintry mix and freezing rain tomorrow and wind gusts up to 45 mph on Tuesday, she said in a statement.

California was getting only a brief break from winter weather, with rain and snow falling again Sunday in the northern part of the state as the first of two more storms started to move in. Blizzard warnings go into effect at 4 a.m. Monday and will last until Wednesday for much of the Sierra Nevada, where crews were still clearing mountain roads after last week’s icy storm.

Extremely dangerous and near to impossible mountain travel is expected due to heavy snow and strong wind, the National Weather Service’s Sacramento office warned on Twitter.

After days of fierce winds, toppled trees and downed wires, more than 67,000 California utility customers remained without electricity, according to PowerOutage.us.

Days of downpours have dumped almost 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rain in the Woodland Hills area of LA’s San Fernando Valley, while nearly 7 inches (18 centimeters) were reported in Beverly Hills. In Valencia, county officials said the heavy rains eroded an embankment at an RV park and swept multiple motorhomes into the Santa Clara River, with emergency video showing one of the RVs toppled on its side. A representative from the RV park said no one was injured.

Rare blizzard warnings for the mountains and widespread flood watches ended late Saturday. But Interstate 5, the West Coast’s major north-south highway, was closed off and on due to heavy snow and ice in Tejon Pass through the mountains north of Los Angeles. Emergency crews were also working to clear mountain roads east of LA that were inundated with snow and ice.

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Michigan power line work continues, California gets breather