LANSING (AP) – Gov. Jennifer Granholm appeared on national television Friday night to describe how the ongoing power outage is affecting southeast Michigan.
Her top concern is getting water flowing again to residents, she told cable station CNBC. She also was keeping an eye on possible problems at the heavily populated area’s sewage treatment plants and hoping that a Friday night rain storm wouldn’t cause overflows of raw sewage.
The governor said the state faced a monumental challenge in getting so many power plants affected by the outage back up and running. Although DTE Energy had restored power to more than half of its 2.1 million customers by Friday evening, it appeared likely that would be Saturday or Sunday before all electric service was restored.
Granholm said Michigan residents overall were coping well with the stress and inconvenience.
“There was a great recognition that this was a time for people to pull together, and not to be adversarial, not turn an emergency situation into a disaster,” Granholm said. “I’m very proud of the citizens not just for not looting, but for coming together to help one another.”
She warned during a news conference earlier in the day that anyone caught trying to take advantage of the situation would be stopped. She said the state attorney general wouldn’t tolerate excessive prices being charged for necessities such as water, gasoline and ice.
The blackout struck Thursday afternoon, shutting down lights and air conditioners and trapping people in elevators from southeast Michigan to Lansing.
By Friday morning, the governor had declared a state of emergency in Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. The counties are all in the southeast corner of the state, where the outage was expected to last until the end of the weekend.
Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties already had declared local states of emergencies on Thursday.
An executive order signed by the governor Friday enabled gasoline from western Michigan to begin being shipped to the Detroit area, where the lack of electricity left most gas stations unable to pump gas. The move is expected to send nearly a million gallons of gasoline to southeast Michigan by Sunday.
A lack of drinking water in the broad area served by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department also was being addressed, she said. The National Guard had on hand 27 large “water buffalo” tanker trucks it planned to use to supply hospitals, airports and residents, and several retailers were together donating hundreds of thousands bottles of drinking water.
Cooling centers where residents could go to escape the stifling heat were being opened in Macomb and Monroe counties as well as Detroit. Oakland County was prepared to open its own centers if needed, Granholm said.
Fifty state police troops had been dispatched to help Detroit in two precincts until the power returned, the governor said. The Michigan Department of Transportation was moving generators to local governments and emergency centers that needed them.
The state was behind in processing family support checks by a day and was having trouble getting applicants signed up for food stamps and similar programs, but delays were easing, she said. The State Fair in Detroit will not open until power is restored.
State offices in Lansing were open for business Friday and the state’s computer systems were working fine except in a few isolated cases, the governor said.
She praised emergency officials as well as people who helped their neighbors during the blackout.
“We have mitigated what potentially could have been very serious consequences,” she said.