On the evening of May 7, Michigan homes and businesses rattled as those taking shelter braced against Mother Nature.

What lasted only a few chaotic minutes will now be part of Southwest Michigan lore for years to come. Residents sat in darkness after the tornadoes rolled through, and it wasn’t until the next day when the sun rose that the community truly saw the devastation.

Homes and businesses were completely leveled, and trees cut in half. Residents were awestruck as they surveyed the damage. Meanwhile, our crews were busy at work. Almost immediately after the funnels passed and they could work safely, crews were seen around every corner and stationed in just about every neighborhood. And those behind the scenes, including dispatchers and wire guards, worked tirelessly to help the community on its road to recovery.

“The crews were right there for us almost as soon as the storms passed through,” said Emily Coon, a Portage resident, whose home was spared by two tornadoes, but had severe property damage. “These were some scary times for all of us, but seeing crews had a calming affect on our neighborhood and I’m sure wherever they were. They are true heroes.”

The destructive storms produced some trying times for the 171 line crews and 61 forestry crews in the field trying to navigate through wreckage in Southwest Michigan to restore more than 34,000 customers. The damage included:

  • 285 poles
  • 264 wires down
  • 69,937 feet of wires down
  • 81 transformers

Besides the crews, there were 111 people out in the field for damage assessment and public safety and 205 offered support behind the scenes.

Coon and many others affected by the twisters said they expected their power to be out for at least several days.

“I was surprised we were restored when we were,” Coon said. “Again, hats off to the crews for making that happen. I know it was important for us with small children.”

Thanks to preparation, working safely and teamwork we experienced several wins that resulted in an efficient and successful restoration:

  • With the amount of crews, forestry, damage assessment and public safety personnel in the field, there were no reported injuries or accidents.
  • Two Mobile Command Centers were utilized in Portage and Colon. These Mobile Units were able to quickly assign crews to the damage by providing a “boots-on-the-ground” approach with the support of the Incident Command System in Jackson, designed to help align restoration efforts during severe weather.
  • We had representatives working alongside county emergency managers to align ever-changing priorities.
  • We utilized a helicopter to assess and find damage to high voltage power lines, allowing for the office support to move the right equipment and supplies to these areas and crews were able to mobilize quickly.

Tommy Webb, Senior Engineer Tech Analyst, got a better view of the damage from the helicopter and helped expedite restoration plans.

“I’m proud to be a part of Consumers Energy,” he said. “No matter how severe the weather and the obstacles in our way, we’re there to get every one of our customers safely restored. We always rise to the occasion.”

Related Blogs:

Crews Help Pick Up the Pieces After Tornado

Crews Restoring Power, Supporting Customers in Wake of Tornadoes

Mobile Restoration Vehicles Help Crews Respond, Restore Power More Efficiently