What caused Monday's power outage? DTE says trees not in its 'right-of-way'

DTE Energy says its crews are working extra hard to get power restored after more than a quarter of a million people lost power on Monday. During an update on Tuesday, DTE's President says the cause of the outages are, largely, due to trees on private property.

DTE President Trevor Lauer spoke to the media on Tuesday as more than 1,800 crews work to get power restored. He said that more than 3,000 lines went down Monday with another 700 reported down Tuesday morning. However, these are not all DTE lines as they could be cable or phone lines as well.

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Lauer said the company has invested roughly $200 million on tree trimming over the past 12 months plus another $200 to $300 million to strengthen infrastructure following multiple power failures in 2021. 

What caused DTE's outage?

Strong winds of up to 70 MPH blew through southeast Michigan for about 10 mins, Lauer said. However, the company says the problem was not trees that were near the power lines.

According to Lauer, the majority of the outages were caused by trees that DTE crews did not trim. Lauer was standing in front of a tree that had taken down on the lines that he said was outside the ‘utility right of way’.

"This was a tree that was on somebody's lot that took down our infrastructure. We can't trim trees that are outside of the utility right-of-ways," Lauer said.

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The right-of-way is within 10 feet of the conductor. Trees that are that close are trimmed by DTE. 

"The vast majority of the outages we're dealing with today are very large trees that broke outside of the utility right of way," he said. 

Lauer said DTE's efforts to trim trees have worked ‘really well’ and that they were having ‘wonderful reliability for…customers’ prior to Monday's storms.

What can DTE customers do?

Lauer said customers should call DTE if they believe a tree is threatening the lines.

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"If a customer feels a dead tree on their lot is threatening our wires, they will call us and often times we will work with that customer. Other times, while we're trimming, we will notify customers that there are dead trees on their property but we do not trim everybody's trees in Southeast Michigan," Lauer said. 

What is DTE doing to fix the outage?

Lauer said most of the company's crews are focused on securing the public. That means identifying and marking lines that are down. 

"When you have a large-scale event like this, the first thing you do is secure the public. Make sure that all wire downs are covered, that you can, to keep incidents from happening," he said.

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Lauer said that will take up most of the company's time on Tuesday.

He then laid out the plan to restore power which will start with health care facilities, then customers who need electricity to power their home health care needs, followed by larger scale areas of homes without power. Read more about DTE's process here.