Out-of-state crews join local line workers, staying until power restored

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Consumers Energy line workers are working around the clock to restore power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses statewide without power.

Line workers are putting in long hours, working up to 16 hours per shift.

As of Thursday night, Consumers Energy has restored power to about half of the homes and businesses without power.

“We’re almost halfway there,” Brian Wheeler, a Consumers Energy spokesperson, said Thursday afternoon. “Getting close to the 200,000 mark in terms of folks without power.”

“We expect most customers will get their power back on by the end of the day Saturday and then we hope to finish the real bulk of the work that’s left after that on Sunday,” Wheeler added.

A Consumers Energy crew was repairing power lines on Breton Road in East Grand Rapids on Thursday. The repair drew the attention of residents who watched and spoke to line workers during the job.

“You see especially in times like this, the impact you’re having,” Wheeler said.

This week’s storms are wreaking havoc on power lines throughout the state.

“We’ve had over 370,000 outages,” Wheeler said. “If you look at storms we’ve experienced in the past, this puts us in the top 10 for most number of outages.”

With numbers like that, reinforcements are required. News 8 cameras saw crews from a Kentucky-based company in Grand Rapids Township Thursday afternoon.

“We have crews from seven states,” Wheeler said. “Crews as far away as New York and Missouri are here in Michigan and will stay until power is back on.”

In the past, crews from Michigan-based Consumers Energy have helped in Florida and other states on the East Coast.

While many companies in various industries are facing an employee shortage during the pandemic, Wheeler says Consumers Energy isn’t.

“We feel like we got a good staffing level for most conditions to do the work we need to keep our electric systems strong,” Wheeler said.

He adds that the company is always looking for people interested in becoming line workers as experienced employees are retiring.

“A lot of people are moving into retirement,” Wheeler said. “Real premium on trying to attract people to work as line workers. We do have partnerships with community colleges where we try to attract people and show them that these are good careers, good paying jobs and meaningful work.”

As of about 11 p.m. Thursday, about 184,000 Consumers customers across the state were without power. The following counties in West Michigan had more than 100 outages:

Allegan County: 11,332
Barry County: 3,007
Branch County: 11,382
Calhoun County: 8,658
Ionia County: 2,779
Kalamazoo County: 3,367
Kent County: 15,051
Mecosta County: 4,478
Montcalm County: 2,417
Muskegon County: 2,636
Newaygo County: 3,118
Oceana County: 1,089
Ottawa County: 3,044
St. Joseph County: 6,813
Van Buren County: 573

The Indiana Michigan Power outage map shows 276 without power in Cass County, 3,130 in St. Joseph County, 272 in Van Buren County and 170 in Kalamazoo County.

On the east side of the state, the DTE Energy outage map shows about 20% of customers, or about 523,000 customers, are without power.

The company has been sponsoring events during the outages for customer and will continue to do so in the coming days. Information can be found on its Facebook page.

Customers who do not have power for more than 120 hours, or five days, can apply for credit on Consumers Energy’s website, the company said. No customer has met that threshold yet.

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