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Hillsdale County is still recovering from last week's severe ice storm

Hillsdale City Hall
Posted at 9:19 AM, Mar 02, 2023

HILLSDALE, Mich. — The unprecedentedice storm last week ravaged southern Michigan causing 90% of Hillsdale County residents to lose power and prompting county leaders to declare a local state of emergency.

"Along the I-94 corridor—Kalamazoo, Hillsdale, Jackson, all the way to Washtenaw and Lenawee counties—about 290,000 customers were impacted," Consumers Energy spokesperson Terry DeDoes said.

Almost one week later, there were still 2,500 Consumers Energy customers in Hillsdale County without power.

"I've been calling Consumers Energy every day to check in on restoration times and updates," Jonesville resident Melissa Whitehead said. "I called two days ago, and they had bumped the restoration time again back a day, which they'd been doing repeatedly, and I told them, 'I know of a senior in the area who has no water, no power, no electric, and we're going on day six.'"

Whitehead said, while she understands Michigan has storms that cause power outages, she still feels there has been a "lack of empathy" from Consumers Energy in the power-restoration process.

"Us as customers have no choice. It's Consumers or no lights," Whitehead said. "We can't switch a company, and I just think that our state rep and our governor need to address this issue."

DeDoes said Wednesday afternoon that there were 600 crews working to restore customers' power, including crews from four other states that came here to help.

"We are going to have the customers in southern Michigan restored tonight," DeDoes said. "We know it was frustrating for customers to keep getting their estimated time of restoration pushed back. We know that, and we're going to work on improving that, and we apologize to those customers for that frustration."

Hillsdale City Manager David Mackie said that the morning after the storm, the Board of Public Utilities lost 100% of its transmission lines.

"Our entire electric grid was down for our customer base," Mackie said.

By Wednesday afternoon, Mackie said 99% of city residents had their power restored thanks to the help of eight other crews from municipalities such as Lowell, Coldwater, Grand Haven, Sturgis, Zeeland and three out of Ohio.

"The cases that are not on are because they have to have electric work done on their homes or there's some extenuating circumstance," Mackie said. "But we're very pleased and proud we were able to get our customers back online within less than a week."

Both DeDoes and Mackie agree, there are ways to better prepare in case there is a next time.

"We've begun a $5.4 billion program to strengthen our system," DeDoes said.

"Probably the biggest and one of the most expensive is actually keeping trees trimmed, out of the lines," Mackie said.

Mackie said that as far as city cleanup goes, he thinks it will take about two months to clear all the debris left behind by the storm.

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