AA Power Outage Open Thread

Submitted by codeBLUE11 on July 7th, 2012 at 9:28 PM
With all the heat lately, I should have known this was coming. My apartment, and it seems most of campus, has lost power. As I was sitting here in the dark, I figured why not create an open thread to get a survey of the damage and see if it's time to start eating the two weeks worth of groceries I just bought. . I've personally seen that all of South U is in the dark along with most of State. How far does it reach? How do you all spend your time when you are without power?



July 7th, 2012 at 9:32 PM ^

I was without power for over a week early this month. We lost a freezer full of meat and most of the fridge as well, although we did have a friends empty apartment to crash at that had power, so the only suggestion I have for people with no power is to drink heavily.

Well, that and probably look for LSAClassof2000 on the board.


July 7th, 2012 at 10:13 PM ^

When a certain fuse location to the south of me opens, which happens a lot on windy days, unless Comcast comes to hook up the generator to the power supply, I will have the Internet and Cable for about three hours and then nothing. The power supply  for their cable is tapped to the secondary (those three wires you see lower on the poles typically, if you didn't know - your overhead drop, if you have overhead service, eminates from  them) south of that location, so while I will have power, I won't have my Internet or cable until the generator down there is up. 

If you have outages near you, it could be that, or it could  be all them (cable or node failure or whatnot), of course. 


July 7th, 2012 at 9:56 PM ^

...and as I just got home, it isn't much sadly. 

Sometime around 9:00 PM, we lost two circuits off of State substation (which is on S. State north of Eisenhower) and one off of Hoover (which is the substation just to the north  of the Stadium). Essentially, the southern end of campus, most of South Campus, and a good portion of SW Ann Arbor went dark. 

As some of you may know, there was a fire at State, so essentially it is in what we call an "abnormal configuration" right now because of the lost transformer. My guess would be that whatever transformer went down in  the fire had those circuits tied to it,  they were thrown over to get people back after the fire, and now, with the heat, the other transformer went over emergency rating and opened those circuits. The Hoover circuit...well...history on this one aside, it was likely a heat-related failure as well. 

If they kick ass on the existing storm work tonight, I would guess that it is back up sometime tomorrow. As for actual campus buildings, the campus has its own powerplant, but we are the backup through some interconnections. Without knowing the state of those, some of which I helped design, it would  be hard to say why anything on campus itself might be out. 

If the mods are OK with it, I will post anything I can find out later tonight, or tomorrow, since I will be in the office (again) anyway here. 



July 7th, 2012 at 10:12 PM ^

So I have to ask, various Southern sections of town go dark on a disturbing regular basis.  At least by my standards.  Of course I grew up next to Three Mile Island and that plant (and surrounding grid) were heavily monitored so maybe I was spoiled.  Plus thanks to TMI I glow in the dark and save a fortune on lightning.  

Anyway, are the fact DTE still has glass insulators and seems to have a lot of overloads in the summer due to DTE having issues finding the money to upgrade the grid or is it due to internal issues with someone at DTE approving the project?  Basically lets say I was to contact my state rep, should I be writing "You guys should float DTE some low interest loans so they can do some work" or should it be "You need to go crack skulls at DTE"?  


July 7th, 2012 at 10:23 PM ^

If you live in an older area with older equipment, then I would love to see us get the funds rebuild the whole area to a different (and more reliable) distribution voltage and replace not just the glass and wood insulator (yes, we still have wood insulators out there) with fiberglass and porcelain and even composite poles, which actually are meant to withstand more wind stress. 

One thing that makes this maddening for us is that - much to the company's disingenuous horror  - about 65% of our construction is also rear easement, so it isn't on the road. It does tend to compound restoration issues. I would love to see us be able to get equipment on the road like other utilities too. 

I would totally agree with anyone who said it - the fact that you could walk down a street in parts of Ann Arbor (or Royal Oak, Ferndale, Detroit, Allen Park, and numerous other places) and see primary sitting on the arms because the wood rotted out and the pin fell harmlessly to the ground is very sad and a bit embarrassing to people like me. 

There are internal organizational  issues as well - I will put that politely. We designed nearly $60 million in work just for our region, some of it in Ann Arbor, and then they decided that because MichCon had a shortfall due to the mild winter, we suddenly couldn't have pencils or...well...various projects done. 

So, a little of both - does that help? Do not give them my name or they'll put me on "special projects" so I can't hurt anyone. 


July 7th, 2012 at 10:34 PM ^

Of course I'll keep your name out of it.  I definitely would screw you over like that. I admit to knowing no one from DTE.  

It's just weird to me.  In PA we didn't have many serious outages and in most cases they had a clear cause (giant ice storm taking down lines, etc). Out here all my Michigander friends consider it normal to need to drag the generator out of the garage and fire it up multiple times per year.  

I have a solar panel, lovely 1800 RPM whole house generator these days.  So MichCon makes money off me everytime I suck down the natural gas.  So right now I'm contributing to the buy you a pencil fund.  My family thinks I went all nutty end of the world survivalist, but as for me I do it so I can look out the window and be like "Hahaha I have AC and the rest of the block doesn't".  Also to keep the two fridges and chest freezer running.  At least the nat gas is reliable, otherwise I have to go totally nuts and get the semi buried propane tank to complement the generator.  It's kind of cool to be so immune to the grid but at the same time everytime I hear the generator kick on it's like "Really DTE, really?".  

Or I'll dam the tiny little creek out back and intro a microturbine, at least until the DNR notices...


July 7th, 2012 at 10:42 PM ^

Don't really worry about my name. Believe it or not, they like me at the office....usually. LOL

As for outages, we used to do this better. The service centers and planning regions used to locally control their work during storm and we could typically kick it out pretty quickly. When they started taking that away from us, the confusion and waiting and other things came into the picture. I'll try to avoid a rant about how storms are run now (mainly because I am going through the normal mid-storm nightmare now), but if you're ever interested, I can give you a way to find me off-blog and I'll talk about how they "devolved", if you will. 

Yeah, I do appreciate the pencil though - it has helped me actually keep a better spreadsheet on what has been evaluated and dispatched than our own System Operations group. 


July 8th, 2012 at 12:06 AM ^

Im a utility dummy but i have one simple question. Why is the grid not designed for double the load? I get alot of it is outdated and only so much you can do but every summer power issues arise because people use their AC? Its obviously never going away so what gives?

I live in PA (pitt) btw and my power goes out alot.


July 8th, 2012 at 12:21 AM ^

This question has a long answer sadly, but I will try to summarize the basic problem.

In reality, most utilities actually design their distribution circuits to work at a predetermined emergency rating, which would be a certain percentage above 100% of load, but the standards are not consistent, and indeed, as is the case with our system, the standards were also written in a time when people did not have the electronics they do now, and in a time when A/C load was typically factored in as far less of an issue than it is would be today (our distribution design guides still make reference to assuming 50% A/C load, which may have been true in 1981 when the spec was written). The trouble also stems from getting money to do the updating you know needs to be done and then getting people up top in the company who haven't sat down to solve these problems in years, if indeed at all, to believe that it is justifiable from a financial standpoint. Will we get to all  our circuits? Believe me, we'd like to do that, but sadly not. 

After the blackout several years back, we took great pains  to build better protection and operating into certain aspects of the system even though it was First Energy in Ohio that was the actual culprit. Still, many built-up areas have older substations with miniscule emergency ratings and little room  for negotiation and many sustations, especially in Detroit, we built in an era long before automated switching and throwovers. We literally have scenarios where  we do all the legwork manually on a circuit only to discover that s circuit went to ground due to another issue. 


July 7th, 2012 at 10:01 PM ^

If you look at Detroit and the inner suburbs, that's typical. Much of it has to do with the fact that it is an older system and, oddly enough, how it fails specifically. Without getting into the gory technical aspects of the 4.8kV ring system, I will say that a fair number of them actually probably have at least partial power, but that counts as an outage and there is likely wire down all the same (fun fact: Detroit Edison has a system where you can  have wire down and be in lights, but not shockingly, no one likes to work on a system that is always live generally)


July 7th, 2012 at 10:01 PM ^

And still have power. If it's going to take until 930PM tomorrow, as someone above said, that sucks. I will be enjoying my AC and pool tonight and tomorrow.

/dooms self to losing power for the rest of July


July 7th, 2012 at 10:06 PM ^

I just moved my girlfriend in to our new place in NYC last weekend, and we were without power for a few days. Apparently the power company here is not good about keeping appointments to turn on apartments' electricity (which, admittedly, may be a function of the electric company being on strike - great timing for us to move).

Welcome to New York, here's a series of 90-something degree days with no fans, AC, or fridge/freezer; have fun moving all that stuff up four floors. (It actually went surprisingly smoothly, but I'm not one to miss an opportunity to play the martyr.)

High Desert Blues

July 7th, 2012 at 10:12 PM ^

and was without power from about 5am Thursday to 6:30pm Friday. Interestingly, parts of my apartment complex were still on during that time. Now, it is those areas that are without power and my buildings are on.

I just hope my power stays on this time. >knocks wood


July 7th, 2012 at 10:20 PM ^

I've had power this whole week, minus a couple minutes here and there becuse of the fire and storms. However, evidently the compressor on my A/C unit was going bad and the power flickering one too many times was more than it could handle. I've been without A/C since Wednesday, so I quasi know your pain.


July 7th, 2012 at 10:53 PM ^

The one Hoover circuit shows 90% restored, and one State circuit is back now. 

Anyone out there just getting it back? There might still be station issues at State, so some of you may not be lucky tonight sadly. I am just trying to give you the bottom line from the copious field notes now in the system. 

Remember to call it in if you're out - I feel odd recommending that you be a pain in the ass to my employer, but oddly enough, this works. 


July 7th, 2012 at 10:52 PM ^

I was in Ohio when the derecho went through Friday....lost power and got it back on Tuesday. Thousands remain without power 8 days into the most miserable week heatwise that anyone can remember.  All perishable food in the frig was a total loss.

1.3 million lost power in the DC-Balt. area from the same storm.


July 7th, 2012 at 11:14 PM ^

Some of you in the Packard and State and Forest and S. University area may not be on until tomorrow. There are some problems confirmed at Hoover too,  and these will get  patrolled first thing tomorrow, more than likely. I know this because I  dispatch the teams that at least evaluate the circuit and feed information  to the crews, who sometimes are not far behind. I'll see what I can swing, eh? 

Most crews will be off in about 20 minutes save for those on certain outages, so there may not be much I can tell anyone until the morning, assuming you're in an affected area. 


July 8th, 2012 at 9:50 AM ^

I'll have to see if there are any problems still out that way, but who knows if they'll need to intentionally open part of a circuit somewhere to fix "related trouble", right? If you would, please let me know what the sale price is and I might swing by on a break. 

Feat of Clay

July 8th, 2012 at 12:30 AM ^

I recommend the iPhone app that DTE makes available. It has helped me avoid the major traffic snarls that develop when traffic lights are out.

We live down near Meijer/ Target and while we have occasional power blips, we seem to rarely be out when others are. Which, hooray.


July 8th, 2012 at 1:08 AM ^

Should I feel spoiled that I have never lived anywhere having power was ever in question, unless a bad storm took a bunch of stuff out?


Ivan Karamazov

July 8th, 2012 at 2:51 AM ^

Working as a waiter on main street in a bar/restaurant my pocketbook saw the effect of the south U bars having no power.  It made what was looking to be a slow night very good.