DTE Timeline: More outages possible if dangerous weather conditions persist in SE Michigan

The damage wrought by a severe ice storm that rocked Southeast Michigan and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of homes is coming into focus. 

The prognosis: the destruction is severe. According to DTE, it is estimating that 95% of its customers will have the power turned back on by the end of Sunday, Feb. 26. 

The utility company's president said some customers would still not have power by Monday because the challenges its crews are facing as they seek to repair 3,200 downed wires and restore electricity to 502,000 homes customers are unique.

"These are very dangerous conditions we have," said Trevor Lauer. "The most important thing is making sure the public understands that."

Lauer and Lt. Mike Shaw with the Michigan State Police implored residents to remain indoors Thursday due to the pervasive issue of downed wires. Already one first responder on the west side of the state has died as well as two pets in Detroit.

Both came into contact with live wires that carry a voltage that will likely kill anyone it touches.

"Our number one concern is making sure the public is safe," Lauer said. "If you have an outage or are in a zone in the map above, our request is you stay inside."

Lauer was speaking during a press conference late Thursday morning. By then, the damage from Wednesday's ice storm had come into focus. 

WEATHER FORECAST: Icy conditions could persist throughout Southeast Michigan

During restoration efforts, crews had found ice as thick as three-quarter inches surrounding some wires - the equivalent of 750 pounds of weight. That, combined with the falling branches and trees ramped up the number of incidents of wires disconnecting.

As first responders and utilities look to the future, they see more problems on the way. 

DTE timeline for restoration

The ice that stuck around through the morning is expected to melt as temperatures continue rising throughout the afternoon. However, wind gusts up to 45 mph are expected around that same time.

If the conditions are too extreme, it could further delay efforts to reconnect power lines. Even worse, they could drive up even more outages into Friday.

"The ice is still frozen on everything," Lauer said. "We're expecting between 35 and 45 mph winds around 3 p.m. So we need everything to melt before the winds start. If they're still frozen, the outages will climb in a significant way."

MORE: Check out the latest outage numbers here

Lauer sounded optimistic that around 100,000 homes could have power restored by the end of the day. However, with public safety being the focus of the day, crews will be diverting efforts toward removing downed lines. 

"Our biggest concern is people losing lives to touching downed power lines," Shaw said. "All you need to do is get close enough to those wires that we all assume are live and it's going to electrify you."

Any schools that don't have power today should also expect to not have power Friday, which means students could be home the rest of the week. 

While the winds won't stick around all day, by the time they leave all the melted ice could re-freeze tonight. 

Some 504,340 homes were without power Thursday afternoon after ice that reached three-quarters of an inch thick in some spots brought down branches and weighed down power lines that snapped.

There were nearly 3,000 incidents of downed wires - another hazard that led to at least one death on the west side of the state after a firefighter came into contact with a live wire. 

How to report a downed wire

If there is an emergency, such as a fire or you see a power line on an unoccupied car, first call 911 then call the power company. DTE Energy can be reached at 800-477-4747. Consumers Energy can be reached at 800-477-5050.

Treat all wires as live, even if you don't think they are.

For non-emergency situations, you can report the wire to DTE online here.

Stay at least 20 feet from the wires. Do not touch the power lines or use an object to touch them. Do not drive over downed wires. Also, avoid touching anything the wire touches, such as a fence or a puddle.