DETROIT (AP) — Detroit officials fully restored power to downtown government buildings, schools, a hospital, traffic lights and police and fire halls Tuesday after a major cable failure caused parts of the city to go dark for up to seven hours.
All customers of the municipal power system affected by the outage had their power back, the city announced at 5:15 p.m. The outages happened around 10:30 a.m.
Mayor Mike Duggan said the power grid hasn't been modernized in decades in Detroit, which is emerging from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. DTE Energy Co. (NYSE: DTE) is taking over the department and spending hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading the system over four years.
The city's electrical grid has been plagued by aging power transmission lines, which have failed under the stress of high demand and heat in particular. Power to downtown has been lost on several occasions in recent years.
"This is a case where a part of the old system that hadn't failed before failed," Duggan said, "Every month that goes by, we'll be more and more on a more modern system and the likelihood of this happening will go down. But it's part of rebuilding the city."
While the power was out, state and local police officers directed traffic throughout downtown and temporary stop signs were placed in the middle of some intersections. Work was halted and crews were sent home from Cobo Center, where a major renovation and expansion of the convention hall is underway.
Among the buildings that lost power was the city-county building, leaving dozens of people stuck in elevators and stranding those physically unable to get down stairs.
There were about a half-dozen fire trucks and ambulances outside the municipal building and across from the famed Spirit of Detroit statue. Rescue workers emerged to enter the building and free people from the stalled elevators and escort or carry others down darkened flights of stairs.
"These people are wonderful," said Geri Fernandez, who was carried from an upper floor on a chair. "It was traumatic for me. I was just nervous but I'm OK."
Some places, such as Detroit Receiving Hospital and many other public safety buildings, were forced to use backup power. Wayne State University also announced it would close for the day, and service was suspended for a time by the Detroit People Mover, an elevated rail line looping downtown.
Detroit Public Schools said it dismissed students at midday because of the outage. Other affected facilities included Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, but the power was restored and Tuesday night's game against the Florida Panthers was to be played as scheduled.
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