Major storms leading to prolonged power outages between February and July cost Ann Arbor city $1.9 million in emergency expenses. The city report noted that handling downed trees and branches, which often take out electrical lines, has been one of the primary expenses, along with the fire department incurring nearly $13,000 in overtime costs due to over 600 incidents. The report also highlights safety concerns with non-functioning traffic signals and streetlights, and instances of car crashes at intersections due to power outages.
Ann Arbor’s Storm-Related Costs Reach $1.9 Million Due to Prolonged Power Outages
Ann Arbor, MI, has estimated that the city’s emergency expenses due to prolonged power outages caused by major storms between February and July cost $1.9 million. These expenses largely arose from dealing with downed trees and branches that took out electrical lines, alongside the fire department’s nearly $13,000 in overtime costs from responding to over 600 incidents. According to a new city report, traffic signals and streetlights not operating during outages also posed notable safety concerns.
Records obtained by MLive/The Ann Arbor News show that city police handled at least four crashes related to traffic signals not functioning amid widespread outages. Despite damages to vehicles and required tows, none of these incidents resulted in serious injuries. The report highlights that during power outages, intersections should be treated as all-way stops, but some drivers have been confused during such instances. This confusion has led to accidents at busy intersections that were left without temporary stop signs or signals.
The city deploys 16 generators to maintain some traffic signals during outages, refueling them every four to six hours. However, these generators are only deployed during the day due to theft risks. The city also has temporary stop signs for about a dozen intersections, but large-scale outages can leave many of the city’s 164 signalized intersections without safety accommodations.
The frequency and cost of these storm events have sparked discussions among City Council members, with some calling the nearly $2 million cost in just half a year “stunning.” With the accelerating effects of climate change, concerns are rising about potential future costs. Despite these costs, the report maintains that temporary signs and signals are deployed “where needed” until power is restored.
While considering ways to improve the city’s response to such events, one issue brought to light was the fact that many city employees live outside the city. This poses a challenge for emergency responses, as it may be difficult for staff to physically get in, especially when road conditions are dangerous or power is out. The report suggests paying for hotels for staff and offering on-call pay as potential solutions.
City Council members have voiced their concerns about the lack of power reliability in the city, with many of them receiving numerous complaints from residents. In response, the city approved a resolution encouraging DTE to develop a plan to improve grid reliability and resilience. This plan would coordinate with the city to upgrade and bury power infrastructure wherever possible, including in conjunction with city street projects. Interestingly, Ann Arbor is still weighing whether to form a municipal power company to take over DTE service in the city.
In addition, the report discusses communication issues with DTE during outages. The city staff does not receive notifications from DTE when power lines are removed from trees blocking roadways, which would allow more prompt responses from city staff for debris removal and road opening.
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