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Power grid strain a concern in Michigan, companies helping conserve energy

Posted: 4:05 AM, Jan 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-31 15:12:24Z

DETROIT, Michigan — Michigan is never the warmest of states in winter. It's easy to joke there that Hell has frozen over, because the tiny lakeside community with that name usually does this time of year.

During this week's brutally dangerous freeze in the Midwest -- it was 9 below zero Thursday morning in Detroit, 11 below in Hell -- Michiganders probably feel like cranking up the heat.

But a certain mishap has the state's governor asking residents to do just the opposite.

On Wednesday night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked everyone in the state's lower peninsula to turn their thermostats down to 65 degrees.

A fire at Consumers Energy's Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station in suburban Detroit Wednesday shut down all gas flow from the facility. The station is responsible for about one-fifth of the state's natural gas storage supply.

Since gas delivery has been inhibited, Whitmer made a late-night appeal.

"Consumers Energy has asked that everyone in the lower peninsula turn our thermostats down to 65 degrees or less, from now until Friday at noon, so we can get through this storm within minimal harm," she said.

"I'm asking that you please, tonight, turn down your thermostat."

Businesses are stopping work to conserve energy, too

The message isn't aimed just at homes.

Several businesses, including General Motors in Flint, suspended operations Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the request of Consumers Energy, the utility's CEO Patti Poppe said.

All facilities owned by the state are lowering their thermostats by 5 degrees, too, the office of the state Public Service chairman said Wednesday .

The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known. The utility said it hoped to partially restore the damaged compressor station this week.

The state is otherwise taking extra measures to keep people safe in the extreme cold. State government offices are closed for a third day; mail delivery is suspended out of concern for carriers' safety; and warming centers are open .

The cold has been deadly. A 70-year-old man was found dead -- frozen -- near his Detroit home Wednesday morning, city police said. At least 11 people have died in the US related to extreme weather this week.