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Power Goes Out in Downtown Detroit

June 14, 2000

DETROIT (AP) _ A power outage blacked out municipal buildings and stop lights in part of downtown Detroit Tuesday afternoon, trapping people in elevators and on elevated trains and turning some intersections into traffic free-for-alls at rush hour.

Mayor Dennis Archer said a cable burned out in one of the Public Lighting Department’s power stations, causing the outage at 12:45 p.m.

Power was being brought online through the evening and was expected to be completely restored by Wednesday morning, mayoral spokesman Greg Bowens said Tuesday night. By midnight, the affected areas were expected to be at about 80 percent capacity.

No injuries were reported.

``We felt pretty lucky that no one was hurt,″ Bowens said. ``We had the biggest power outage in the city’s history during the busiest time of the day.″

Schools were expected to be open Wednesday morning and full power was to be restored by the time people go to work, Bowens said.

The blackout affected 1,400 city- and county-owned buildings, primarily in the downtown area, as well as traffic and street lights. Residential and nonpublic customers did not lose power.

Fire officials rescued those caught on the People Mover elevated rail system by opening emergency doors. The police department was operating on backup generators, and the 911 emergency system was not affected.

All police runs were being dispatched from the precincts, though they normally would come out of headquarters.

``We’re not taking any chances, we’re dispatching manually,″ said deputy Police Chief Paula Bridges.

While the blackout was primarily in the downtown area, stop lights were out around the city.

At some downtown intersections, police cadets in khaki shirts and pants helped officers direct traffic. Authorities asked motorists to treat intersections without officers present as four-way stops, and in many cases drivers inched up and signaled one another to go forward or make a turn.

But at some intersections, drivers barrelled through without stopping and avoided crashes only because drivers at the cross street did stop.

Detroit City Airport was operating with emergency transmitters.

Several dozen public schools were without power and parents were asked to pick up their children.

Lester Cormier and Fred Huitt were standing in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building waiting to hear if they were going to work their night shift.

Cormier, who works in a client service center for the city’s Information Technology Services Department, said his boss told him to wait and see what happens. He was to start his shift at 4 p.m.

``We figure we’ll be needed if eventually it does come on,″ Cormier said, who helps solve problems with the city’s telephones and computer systems.

The Wayne County Jail was in a lock down and operating on generators, though the jail did not have any security problems, spokeswoman Nancy Mouradian said.

The Detroit Tigers game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park started as scheduled at 7:05 p.m. The Tigers won 16-3.

Wayne State University also lost power and canceled afternoon classes, spokesman Tom Tigani said. The university expected to reopen Wednesday.

``It’s pretty warm in here,″ without air conditioning or fans, Tigani said. The temperature was in the 80s Tuesday afternoon.

Update hourly