Detroit saw a massive power outage on Sunday, July 27, 2014. DTE Energy, a local natural gas and electricity utility company, estimates that approximately 160,000 consumers experienced a service disruption. A series of heavy storms with hail and strong winds throughout the city caused the outage. While these outages are temporary, the impact of severe weather events and outages places strain on local and national economies.
The physical damage
The National Weather Service reports hailstones up to an inch in diameter affecting Warren and Shelby Township. One and a half inches of rain fell within an hour in Sterling Heights, and winds reached sixty-five miles per hour in Mount Clemens. There are reports of uprooted trees and damaged and fallen power lines in Mount Clemens, Wyandotte, Northville, Pontiac and Milford.
What to do if you experience an outage or see a fallen line
DTE Energy announced that it is working to assess the damage and restore power as soon as possible. The utility advises that customers should use caution around fallen or damaged power lines. Assume all wires are live and potentially dangerous. Adults, children and pets should stay at least 20 feet away from these hazards.
The economic damage
While individual storms cause mild damage, harsh weather and ensuing power outages like the one in Detroit take an enormous toll on the economy over time. A report prepared by the Executive Office of the President outlines the many ways improving electrical infrastructure will protect our economy.
According to the report, outages close schools and businesses and affect emergency services, costing the federal economy billions of dollars. Losses in output, wages, inventory and delayed production, as well as inconvenience to the electric grid, are estimated to cost $18 to $33 billion annually with adjustment for inflation. Of course these estimates vary from year to year. As a result of Superstorm Sandy, 2012 might have seen losses upward of $27 to $52 billion.
In 2011, the Obama administration released a framework for a four-pillared strategy to update the U.S. electric grid. In light of climate change, this strategy becomes increasingly important. More hurricanes, winter storms, heat waves and floods are predicted to threaten the grid and the country’s economic health. Hopefully, this strategy will mitigate costs over time and help protect the fragile economy and American taxpayer.