Massive Cable Failure Knocks Out Power to Downtown Detroit

The Frank Murphy Hall of Justice is among several public buildings across Detroit that reported power outages Dec. 2, 2014. (Photo: Elisha Anderson, Detroit Free Press)
The Frank Murphy Hall of Justice is among several public buildings across Detroit that reported power outages Dec. 2, 2014. (Photo: Elisha Anderson, Detroit Free Press)

A massive cable failure triggered a huge power outage in downtown Detroit Tuesday, knocking out electricity to most public buildings, trapping many people in elevators and cutting power to police departments, fire stations, schools, jails and traffic lights.

The “major cable failure” shut down the grid at about 10:30 a.m., and all of the roughly 100 buildings on it were affected, according to a statement from the City of Detroit.

“We have isolated the issue and are working to restore power as soon as possible,” according to the statement.

Traffic lights began coming back on at many intersections around 11:45 a.m. and in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, where many people were evacuated through stairwells, WJBK-TV reported.

Other affected buildings included the Detroit Institute of Arts and Wayne State, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The Coleman A. Young Municipal Center also was was evacuated. More than 1,200 inmates at two locations were locked down until power is restored, said Lt. Brian Earle with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.

The automated 3-mile long Detroit People Mover, which encircles downtown Detroit, was also shut down. Schools let out classes at mid-day.

Some police officers speaking to their dispatcher on police scanners said they were concerned about running out of gasoline because gas pumps were down.

A number of fire stations were on generator power, and all are able to take calls by landline or radio, according to Detroit Fire dispatch radio traffic.

The Detroit Medical Center’s Detroit Receiving Hospital began has begun rerouting highest-level trauma patients to Henry Ford and St. John’s main hospitals, although emergency power system have kept patients “safe and well cared for,” according to a statement. Other DMC hospitals – Harper and Hutzel, for example – were not affected by the outage.

Medical Center spokeswoman Sarah Collica said she was told “the lights flickered on and off — an indication that crews are working on the problem” she said, but overall “patient care was not affected.”

The ongoing murder trial of Bob Bashara at the Hall of Justice was abruptly paused after the lights flickered and went out. People are evacuating the courthouse by the stairwell. Bashara, 56, is accused of directing his former handyman, Joseph Gentz, to kill his wife, Jane Bashara.

The Detroit Historical Society lost power while a school group was in the Streets of Old Detroit exhibit, according to organization spokesman Bob Sadler.

“There wasn’t any panic” he said. “The staff acted fast. They had flashlights. They moved them up to lobby and they boarded their buses.”


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