Smoke, loud popping from an Almont DTE substation reported

ALMONT — Yet another power outage struck the Village of Almont and periphery Sunday afternoon, July 28, when an electrical malfunction occurred at the DTE substation at the northwest corner of Almont and Kidder roads.
The latest outage follows three days without power for many Almont residents and those in neighboring townships.
At around 3:22 p.m., Almont Fire Chief Don Smith reported that firefighters responded to 5900 Kidder Rd. following reports of smoke, possible fire and “loud popping noises” coming from the facility.
Smith said four small explosions or “pops” had been heard by residents and that a 16-inch-by-30-inch metal box had blown apart at the substation.
He said firefighters reported the incident and power outage to DTE, while shutting down traffic to the area between Kidder and Hamilton roads.
DTE personnel arriving at the scene indicated they would attempt to find a “temporary solution” for restoring power.
In the meantime, vacationers heading south on M-53 and residents trying to traverse the village found themselves in long lines of traffic once again. Traffic lights at Tubspring Road and St. Clair Street downtown weren’t working.
“It’s normal for traffic to be backed up on a Sunday afternoon, but with the lights being out, it was backed up even more,” says Police Sgt. Dave Repshas.
Despite the inconvenience, Repshas says motorists were exercising caution.
“People were treating the intersections like a four-way stop. They were doing as they should,” he says.
As a result, Repshas adds, there were no accidents reported that day, nor earlier in the week when the power was out for three days.
“Police officers took not one incident report based on the storm, and there was not one accident due to the power outages,” he says. “I think that’s awesome.”
Repshas says the department is often asked why they don’t have officers stationed at the intersections directing traffic during power outages. The reason, he says, is a matter of safety.
“It’s a hazard to the officers, and the Chief is not going to do that,” he says.
At one time, the department placed temporary stop signs at pertinent intersections, Repshas says, but they were advised by MDOT to refrain from doing so.
“MDOT said ‘no’, that it causes confusion and that motorists have to treat the intersection as a four-way stop,” he says.
By the time power was restored to much of the affected area around 3:30 a.m. on Monday, traffic problems had decreased considerably.
Power outages continued intermittently throughout the day, the result of DTE-controlled outages.
Fire Chief Smith noted that the Almont substation’s power grid is 48,000 volts, significantly higher that the typical DTE power grids of 13,200 volts.
DTE on Monday placed large temporary generators at three locations in Almont and its periphery.
Those locations include: M-53, south of Dryden Rd.; at the baseball fields north of The Bells senior living facility on Church Street; and at the affected substation at Almont and Kidder roads.
DTE corporate communications spokesperson Je’well Pearson on Monday said Sunday’s outages were caused by “some issues at the substation.”
“We had equipment issues and we’re working on that,” she said.
Pearson confirmed that DTE had planned outages scheduled in the area in order to complete the repairs, “and to provide more reliability in the area.”
Pearson indicated that the work was expected to take eight hours, and the project would be closed out by Monday’s end.  Indeed, power was restored to the affected area around mid-day.
Editor’s note: Catherine Minolli contributed to this report.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.