DETROIT (AP) – Power was restored to nearly all of blacked-out Michigan on Saturday, but energy officials called the situation tenuous and said it was critical for people to conserve electricity to avoid rolling blackouts.
Only a few of the estimated 2.3 million customers affected by Thursday’s massive blackout remained without electricity.
But Tony Earley, chairman and chief executive of DTE Energy, said his system’s current power capacity was far less than the anticipated peak demand later in the day.
Earley said the current capacity was 6,600 megawatts. Saturday’s peak load is expected to be 8,700 megawatts. Normal capacity is 11,000 megawatts.
Earley said the discrepancy makes it critical for people to refrain from using air conditioners and for businesses that don’t need to open this weekend to remain closed.
“It’s essential that customers minimize use of electricity today,” he said, noting that he expected DTE’s system to be back at normal capacity by the start of business Monday.
Some communities also were without water or had low water pressure as officials with the Detroit water department, which services much of southeast Michigan, worked to increase the flow. A boil water advisory remained in effect.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm has declared states of emergency in Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. All are in the southeast corner of the state. She also signed an executive order to allow gas from western Michigan to be shipped to the Detroit area and praised residents for pitching in to help.
“We have had phenomenal citizen patriotism in this state,” Granholm said Saturday on NBC’s “Today” show. “The outpouring has been so dramatic.”
Detroit and Wayne County officials celebrated how smoothly things were going as the area recovered from the outage.
“If the people of this city have had a finer 29 hours, I don’t know when it is,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan.
Officials said crime in the city remained at normal levels.
“I hope this is the beginning of a permanent change,” Duggan said.
As part of the effort to conserve power, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on Saturday urged residents to use the day to get out of their homes and cool off at public recreation facilities. Free bus service was being offered to encourage that.
“We are returning to a sense of normalcy,” Kilpatrick said.
Kilpatrick said officials had not begun to tally the cost of the outage, but it’s not something weighing on his mind. He said the city likely will apply for federal relief once the cost of the blackout is known.
The new head of the Michigan Public Service Commission, Peter Lark, said the three-member commission planned Monday to order an investigation into what caused Michigan to suffer the largest power outage in its history.
Earley has said DTE Energy would take part in an expected federal investigation but it didn’t appear any failure within his system contributed to the cause of the blackout.
The crisis left many people wondering how such a thing could happen.
Lisa Van Buren, 39, of Detroit said city and state officials should have planned for such a contingency – not just in providing emergency aid, but in helping boost the electrical infrastructure to ensure the effects of such outages would be minimized.
“Still, overall, this city is blessed,” Van Buren said.
The outage around 4 p.m. EDT Thursday shut off the lights and made air conditioners and refrigerators useless from the southeastern part of the state north to Lansing. The Detroit suburb of Dearborn gave away free dry ice on a first-come, first-serve basis. And Detroit set up cooling centers at several locations.
Weekend events such as the annual Woodward Dream Cruise classic car fest went on. And with power restored, Royal Oak police said the cruise would run until its regular closing time of 9 p.m. EDT instead of ending an hour earlier, as planned when the lights were out.
But at other events such as the African World Festival in downtown Detroit’s Hart Plaza, disgruntled and disappointed vendors muttered as they disassembled their stalls, readying for a long road-trip home.
“We come here every year and we never have a problem. Then we get this,” said Ava Salyang, 42, who is originally from Gambia but now lives in New York City. “We’re going back to New York. … not that things are much better there.”
To help deal with water problems, the National Guard was distributing 27 large tanks of water, known as a water buffalo, to hospitals and airports. Granholm said 76,000 bottles of water have been donated by Meijer to the state’s emergency operations center.
Detroit’s boil alert will likely be extended until Wednesday, Kilpatrick said. He also asked people to avoid drinking from water fountains in the city until the alert is lifted.