Even as DTE Energy crews are working to restore power to 29,000 customers in Southeast Michigan, the extreme heat may create other problems, according to DTE spokesman Scott Simons, including rolling blackouts.
"Our system is designed to meet our customers' need for power on the hottest days of the year," he said, "but we're in the midst of we don't know how many days of 90-plus temperatures and extremely high humidity. We typically don't see that."
The National Weather Service has predicted that the extreme heat will peak today, with temperatures reaching as high as 101 degrees. The last 100-degree day on record was July 14, 1995. Temperatures have been above 90 degrees every day this week and extreme heat is expected to continue tomorrow, cooling off to the mid-80s by the weekend, according to the weather service.
Several White Lake Township DTE customers have experienced power outages since Monday, according to the company's outage map, which is updated every 15 minutes.
During peak use times, Simons said, power lines, transformers and other pieces of equipment "are operating continuously under extremely high demand with the use of air conditioners, fans, pool filters and other appliances — they don't get a chance to cool down." He said the high demand can cause cause localized problems in the form of blackouts, when equipment fails completely or periods of low voltage.
"Right now, we've got 29,000 customers out of 2.1 million without power," he said. "Overall, the system is doing well. It's just those isolated areas where there's too much load for the system to handle at once or the occasional malfunction due to the heavy use."
He said customers can help but shifting air-conditioner temperatures to 80 degrees "or the highest comfortable temperature" and defer the use of such appliances as dish washers, stoves, pool filters, dehumidifiers, washing machines and dryers, until after 9 p.m.
"That would take a load off the system during peak demand," he said. "So, if you have a load of dishes to wash, just turn on the dishwasher before you go to bed."
He said other appliances, such as computer printers and charging stations, account for "phantom use that's still sucking the juice out of the system" and could be unplugged unless the equipment is being used.
As for repairs to outages, Simons said that crews have been working 16-hour days since last week's violent storms, but working in the heat is taking a toll "especially when they are working directly next to power equipment and have to wear rubber gloves and sleeves. It's a very hard job because of the extreme heat and humidity.
"They'll take more breaks than usually to hydrate, so they don't get heat stroke, so that slows the work," he said, adding that some extra crews have been called in from other states. No workers have been injured during the repairs, he said.
"We certainly appreciate our customers' patience. We know it's definitely an uncomfortable situation when they don't have power and we're working hard to fix that."