UPDATED: Storm Knocks Out Power, Causes Damage in Chesterfield
The Tuesday evening thunderstorms caused traffic lights to go black along the busy 23 Mile corridor.
Updated 8:10 a.m. Wednesday, July 4 and again at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, July 5.
The Tuesday evening thunderstorms rolled in, leaving behind a trail of darkened traffic lights, downed trees and water over roadways.
The highly traveled 23 Mile corridor was without working traffic lights at several intersections, including the busy Interstate 94 exit. Lights went out for many businesses along the corridor, as well as on Gratiot Avenue. Drivers were also greeted with pools of water on Gratiot north of 23 Mile.
Residents went outside after the storm to discover large uprooted trees in their neighborhoods.
"It just came in like a hammer and hit us," Chesterfield Township Fire Chief Doug Charbonneau said, adding the community and Macomb Township got hit hardest by the storms in Macomb County.
Firefighters responded to three lightning strikes on Tuesday—two of which started fires. No one was injured in any of the incidents. Lightning caused fire inside the walls of a home in the Sugarbush and Jefferson area as well as in the laundry room of a house in the 24 Mile and Gratiot area. Lightning also blew a hole through an attic wall on Graham Street near 21 Mile, but did not ignite flames, Charbonneau said.
The department received the most calls between 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. With help from surrounding fire stations, including New Baltimore, Ira Township, Macomb Township, Lenox Township and New Haven, they were able to respond to all 36 of the calls, he said.
Many large trees were split in half or completely uprooted, especially along Fairchild between 21 and 23 Mile roads and along Sugarbush near 21 Mile. Four trees crashed down on a mobile home in Chesterfield as well, but the family was not hurt, he said.
The storms rolled in so fast, sirens did not go off in time. The sirens activate when winds reach 70 m.p.h or there's an imminent tornado, the chief said.
"It kind of swept in on us," he said.
Meanwhile, roughly 10,000 DTE customers lost power due to the storms the night before Fourth of July, according to the company's outage map.
By the holiday morning more than 13,000 customers were without electricity in the community. Many of those customers were expected to have power restored later that night, the company stated.
On Thursday morning, more than 2,000 customers still didn't have power in the Chesterfield area. They were among 190,000 customers in southeast Michigan without electricity at that time, DTE spokesman Scott Simons told Patch.
"This is the fourth storm we've had since Tuesday morning, so we have to keep reassessing priorities," Simons said. "But, we do know the restoration process will take us into the weekend."
He said the utility had reduced the outage number from Tuesday's storms to 17,000 before a Wednesday evening storm hit, followed by what DTE experienced as the most severe storm of the week overnight.
DTE has recalled 100 linemen who were sent to Ohio to help with repairs after storms there last week and expects to have a power restoration estimate later Thursday.
"Pretty much everything that happened the other day has been turned over to the power company because it's their responsibility," said Charbonneau, noting that some Comcast customers also lost their service in the storms.
Although there were reports of downed wires throughout Chesterfield and one commercial business on East Russell Schmidt Boulevard that had a damaged roof and walls, New Baltimore did not see any major problems, said New Baltimore Deputy Fire Chief Brian Bilinski.
"We're very fortunate here in New Baltimore," Bilinski said. "We've seem to have a bubble over us."
The city did lose power at traffic lights on 23 Mile and Jefferson as well as 23 Mile and Huntley Street. Officers directed traffic until the Road Commission of Macomb County brought generators to start the lights. Those traffic lights were still running by generators Thursday morning. There were no reported accidents at those intersections, New Baltimore Police Sgt. John Willer said.
Although multiple businesses, such as Starbucks on 23 Mile, in Chesterfield Township lost power Tuesday in the storm, others were unfazed.
"We actually missed it," Chris Pozios of Gus' Coney Island on Gratiot near 23 Mile said.
He said the restaurant's lights went out a couple times last summer due to storms but there were no problems this time.
Despite the storms sweeping over the several communities, none of Bad Brad's BBQ's three locations—in New Baltimore, Shelby Township or commissary kitchen in Macomb Township—were affected. Only the lights flickered momentarily at the New Baltimore restaurant.
"We got lucky," Bad Brad's BBQ co-owner Mike Pollard said.
The storms sparked concerns from Chesterfield fire officials after the fire chief stumbled upon someone using a generator in an enclosed space.
"I witnessed an individual starting a generator inside his attached garage," Charbonneau said. "It's a gasoline-powered motor, just like on a car, and families have been killed by running a generator inside a garage."
He then told the person how to properly run the unit to prevent carbon-monoxide poisoning.
In light of the incident, the chief wants to remind the public that generators must be set up outside the house or garage and away from open windows.
For more information on generator safety, visit http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/tips/generators.html
Berkley Patch Editor Leslie Ellis contributed to this report.
See photos of the storm damage from Anne Nicolazzo here.