Washtenaw County experienced a massive electrical power failure on Thursday August 14, 2003 at approximately 4:15 p.m., along with much of the eastern United States. After consultation with County Administration and Emergency Management officials, Leah Gunn, Chairperson of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, declared a local State of Emergency.
The Washtenaw County Emergency Operations Center, running on generator power, was activated immediately following the blackout. Communications was established with numerous public health and safety organizations, including the State Emergency Operations Center in Lansing, to coordinate information and response. Local broadcasters, hospitals, and 9-1-1 centers were kept updated through the countys Emergency Alert System; and numerous county officials were interviewed by WAAM, WEMU, WWJ, WXYZ-TV, the Ann Arbor News, the Associated Press, and the Detroit Free Press to provide the community with information and guidance.
At 9:00 p.m. Thursday evening, a DTE Energy spokesperson asked the entire community to reduce or entirely cancel all business related activities for Friday. Accordingly, County Administrator Bob Guenzel directed all non-essential county government operations to be cancelled for the day. DTE also asked customers to unplug all large appliances, such as air conditioners and refrigerators, until power has been fully restored to the area.
Residents in the Ann Arbor vicinity were asked to substantially reduce their water use. The Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority requested all residents in the Ypsilanti area to boil their water prior to consumption due to low water pressure.
On Friday, August 15 at 7:40 p.m., DTE Energy reported that about 90% of electrical service in Washtenaw County (or approximately 324,000 of 360,000 total customers) had been fully restored.
On Saturday at 10:00 a.m., DTE Energy reported that the power grid was fully restored to the Washtenaw County community. The local state of emergency was retracted, and the Emergency Operations Center terminated operations. The boil water advisory for Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority customers remained in effect until 5:30 p.m. on Monday August 18.
The Emergency Management Division estimates that approximately $1.7 Million dollars was expended by local public safety, public health, and public utilities agencies outside of the City of Ann Arbor in the response effort. At least an additional $4.1 Million dollars was lost by local government organizations on wages and operating revenues during the blackout. Two homes were destroyed by fire due to candles. One of these fires resulted in a death.
These statistics have been submitted to the Michigan State Police Emergency Management Division, who is compiling a statewide damage assessment for submittal to the White House through the Department of Homeland Security.