DETROIT (AP) — Thousands of Michigan families headed into the Christmas holiday without heat and electricity.
Crews worked around the clock Tuesday, but utility officials said it might take several days to restore all power following a weekend ice storm that left more than half a million homes and businesses without service.
As of late Tuesday, about 206,000 customers remained in the dark. Consumers Energy reported about 152,000 customers still were without service. DTE Energy said it still had 42,000 outages, while the Lansing Board of Water and Light had about 12,000 without power.
"It's unprecedented," Mary Palkovich, vice president of Energy Delivery for Consumers Energy, said of the outages created by the storm.
Jackson-based Consumers, Michigan's largest utility, said the storm was the worst for their customers during Christmas week in its 126-year history. About 318,000 homes and businesses — nearly 17 percent of its 1.8 million electric customers — lost power during the storm that hit the state late Saturday.
"There are so many trees that have fallen with all that heavy ice on them. Along the roadside, they knocked the lines down," said Ted Montgomery, who lives north of Detroit in Lapeer.
His power went out about 10 a.m. Sunday. He and his wife have been using their fireplace for heat.
"We haven't had any power in two days and DTE is saying it won't be on until Dec. 27," said Montgomery, 61.
The utilities have said it would take days before most power can be restored because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.
High winds may be a problem Wednesday, Palkovich said.
"It interferes with power lines again," she said. "Tomorrow could limit a little of our progress. Gusts over 30 mph ... it's tough to put employees into buckets."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Consumers Energy had nearly 450 electric line crews working.
Jamie Billings, of Tyrone Township in Livingston County, had a glimmer of hope that her power would be back on for Christmas.
"We have a wood-burning stove, so I've been staying at home, but I'm going to have to start throwing stuff in the fridge out," Billings told The Flint Journal.
Carla Coulter of Clio saw the brighter side of temporarily being in the dark.
"We don't have power," the 46-year-old Coulter told MLive.com as she held her year-old grandson during a holiday celebration in downtown Flint. "We're warming up, and I just feel so very blessed to have my family. I don't need anything else."