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Beline Obeid

Wind reigns

June 12, 2008
Strong winds thinned Grosse Pointe's tree canopy Sunday afternoon.

Wind toppled trees on Oxford on Sunday, June 8. Photo by Brad Lindberg
Rains that seemed dumped from horse buckets washed leaves, seeds and other debris to storm drains, clogging openings and flooding streets.

Grosse Pointe Shores Officer Ken Werenski monitors small flames coming from a downed electrical wire pinned under a large branch on Oxford on Sunday, June 8. Firefighters stood by for a utility crew to shut off the power before flames could be doused without risk of current traveling up the stream of water and electrocuting an officer. Sporatic power and cable outages were reported by residents following the storm. Photo by Brad Lindberg
Branches cracked under the strain and landed on electrical cables. Residents reported power failures and sparking wires.

At 5:30 p.m., the Grosse Pointe Shores weather siren sounded. Eastside weather stations recorded 30-mph gusts. Ninety-degree temperatures dropped 20 degrees as the front came in.

In the backyard of 30 Oxford in the Shores, a large limb snapped and pinned a bundle of power lines on a wooden fence near a group of utility sheds. A small fire resulted but was prevented from doing more than smolder. Drenched foliage and building material wouldn't ignite.

Shores public safety officers stood by with two fire trucks and a hose hooked to a hydrant.

"Everything was sparking when we got here," said Public Safety Officer Ken Werenski at the scene. "It looked like it could start a fire at any time, but once the weather calmed down, it seemed that everything else calmed down. We're standing by making sure nothing gets out of hand."

A power surge at a neighboring house "severely damaged" an electrical panel, police said.

Werenski notified DTE Energy and was told that, due to the fire risk, repairs would be put near the top of a priority list.

The storm caused nearly 3,000 downed wires in DTE's service area, according to a company update Monday afternoon.

Storm damage in the 300 block of Lothrop. Photo by Brad Lindberg
Some 170,000 customers lost power, not including 80,000 customers affected by thunderstorms the previous Friday and Saturday. Outages ranged from Milan in the southwest to Williamston in the west to Caro in the Thumb. Hardest hit in metropolitan Detroit were Oakland and Macomb counties.

Farms police knew what many of those customers were going through. A downed line on Kerby between Grosse Pointe Boulevard and Kercheval knocked out power to headquarters. The block was closed to non-emergency traffic. Officers switched on a backup generator until things were put back to normal.

Members of the police auxiliary were stationed by downed lines and felled trees on Kerby, Vendome, Kercheval, Lothrop, Moran and Mason. A resident of the first block of Vendome used a chainsaw to clear a big tree that crashed to the ground.

In the 300 block of Lothrop, a woman looking out her front door saw her lawn almost covered by the leafy stems of a large branch that snapped and fell about 20 feet to the ground.

The storm arrived quickly and soon passed eastward over Lake St. Clair. Shards of blue sky began breaking through clouds at about 6:30 p.m. but never took hold.

Back on Oxford, power lines sagging under the limb buzzed with current. Some of the brush had dried enough to hold fire. Small flames crackled like the sound of kindling. A power surge caused a bang and Werenski, standing 25 feet away, moved back.

"It's not safe to spread water on an open power line," he said.

At 12:45 a.m., severe arcing ignited the fence. An hour later, a DTE crew came and shut off the current.

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