Overnight power outage that fried Ann Arbor appliances renews questions on DTE reliability

A cable can be seen severed from a downed power service line in Grant Alpert’s backyard in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. File photo.

A cable can be seen severed from a downed power service line in Grant Alpert’s backyard in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. File photo. Jacob Hamilton | MLive.com


ANN ARBOR, MI -- An overnight power outage that fried the appliances of some Ann Arbor residents has them requestioning DTE Energy’s reliability.

Residents in northwest Ann Arbor reported an overnight outage lasting from around 2 a.m. on Tuesday, May 30, to around 3 p.m. the same day. When power was restored, many residents discovered their appliances no longer worked, even after they reset breakers.

“It’s different in every house,” said Jennifer Santi, who lives on Culver Road. When Santi’s power was restored, she discovered her coffee machine, ceiling fan, dishwasher and washing machine no longer powered on.

She’s heard other neighbors have lost everything from refrigerators to sound systems to lamps.

“We basically lost our stove, dishwasher, and refrigerator,” said Alex Rogers, who also lives on Culver Road.

Rogers also has heard from neighbors who said their appliances were damaged when power returned.

“This is not a single-house phenomenon,” he said.

The experience has refreshed their concerns with the utility company, which garnered scrutiny after an ice storm earlier this year left roughly 65,000 without power for almost a week in Washtenaw County.

Read more: DTE customers still in the dark say $35 utility credit is ‘insulting’

“This is just not the kind of utility that is reliable anymore,” Santi said. “…It doesn’t connect in my head that we live in a community where we can’t rely on power.”

Although both have been in touch with the utility company, it’s still unclear if DTE will reimburse them for damaged appliances, they said.

Customers with damaged appliances can reach out to the company, a spokesperson for DTE told MLive/The Ann Arbor News in an email. The outage, which impacted roughly 100 people, was caused by a large tree that fell and damaged equipment, the spokesperson added.

“We know how difficult a power outage is for our customers and we apologize for the inconvenience,” the spokesperson wrote.

Rogers, who also lost power during the summer 2022 outage and the outage earlier this year, said this incident has been the most frustrating.

“Some of these weather events I really feel like are out of their control,” Rogers said. “…But this didn’t feel like there was an explainable event that triggered it.”

DTE is not responsible for damages due to “equipment failure beyond our reasonable control,” according to its website.

Mark Gilbert, who lives on Fountain Street, said replacements for his damaged stove hood and dishwasher will cost roughly $1,500. He is also concerned about getting reimbursed, as it’s more difficult to prove an electronic is broken than other damage.

“I can’t take a picture of something that’s looking burned,” he said. “There is no sort of external evidence other than the thing’s just dead.”

The incident has renewed his interest in Ann Arbor Public Power, Gilbert said. The grassroots activist group is pushing Ann Arbor to form its own municipal electric utility to replace DTE Energy. The group held a town hall meeting shortly after the widespread outages earlier this year.

Gilbert wants to see more accountability and consistency from DTE.

“I know that they’re a regulated utility, but it sure feels like they’re a monopoly,” he said.

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