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Why Wacky Weather

Posted to MichiganNow.org on Sunday, September 7, 2014

INTRO: This summer’s wacky weather is like Sept 11 for New Yorkers. It means everyone has a story to tell. Some people are blaming mother nature, others want to blame their local power company. But we humans have a lot to do with it. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus reports.

Think about last summer. Hot. This last winter. Colder than we’ve ever felt. Now this summer. The rain doesn’t want to fall. It wants to pound down and destroy things.

King Cole Foods is a grocery store off Woodward in Detroit. Their emergency generator is mounted on the roof. It roared for three days and nights keeping food cold and people awake with the noise. Kevin Farida is a store manager.

“No internet. No lights. We have problem. No transaction. We were only accepting cash. All our business that goes with food stamps card, EBT card, debit card and credit we couldn’t use for the past three days. We lost thousands of dollars.”

And laws force food vendors to throw their investments away.

“Meat is going bad. Produce is going bad.”

In their homes, people used candles, lanterns and flashlights and bumped around their furniture. In the twenty African countries I once lived in, power grids were built during colonial days a century ago. The population grows but not the electrical grid. Power gets cut all the time. So people are used to it. Lansing lost its power for a week during Christmas. And now parts of Southeast Michigan have been affected. Are we becoming third world?

“It exploded. The tree fell and broke the wires.”

In the alley behind Barbara Perkins’ house, lightening struck followed by white smoke. She watched Thursday night as an emergency power crew cleared the damage.

“We’re using more energy. You’ve got internet. You’ve got cell phones. You’ve got notebooks. Let’s face it. A lot of our lines are old. If you have a 120 plug and you plugging a 220 in it’s going to overheat. It’s going to blow.”

“You sound like an engineer,” I said.

“I have common sense,” she said. Perkins is a retired school administrator. She says we’re in denial about how burning fossil fuels is affecting the environment.

“As human beings we prefer not to look at what’s happening.”

It’s hard to think beyond ourselves, our families and friends.

A few blocks away, kids smiled and jumped around as Kim Milner was talking on her cell phone.

“The power just came back on. I got to get these refrigerators before I get to work. All right momma. Love you. Bye bye.”

Milner has lived in Detroit all her life and in this neighborhood for a decade. She says power outages are more common.

“It’s getting worser. If you’ve been here long enough you know. Usually we don’t go out. This is maybe our third time going out.”The National Regulatory Research Institute says total energy use is steady or declining. High efficiency appliances and lighting offset new uses. But it may be too late. The world will have to reduce its use a lot more to make up for 200 years of industrial pollution, mainly by the U.S., Europe and lately China. Jeff Andresen is the state of Michigan’s climatologist and a professor at MSU. He doesn’t argue with statistics. They show that weather is becoming more severe. Global wierding is our fault, says Andresen.

“Current projections for the future suggest precipitation might become more variable and while we’ll have more heavy precipitation events we would also have maybe more drought. It is tied to human activity. And fossil fuel burning right? Yes that’s a major source.”

Residents of Royal Oak and Huntington Woods are still dragging wet rugs from their basements. They’re feeling climate change. Kids and adults were angry at the power company. My kids are relieved to return to their video games and climate change denial.

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Barbara Perkins at her house on Atkinson and Third Avenue, on the edge of Boston-Edison district. A tree from her neighbor's yard fell and knock down power lines. DTE took three days to fix it since hundreds of thousands of other homes were hit by the storm.

Barbara Perkins at her house on Atkinson and Third Avenue, on the edge of Boston-Edison district. A tree from her neighbor's yard fell and knock down power lines. DTE took three days to fix it since hundreds of thousands of other homes were hit by the storm.

Boy at bottom is getting close to the downed power lines.

Boy at bottom is getting close to the downed power lines.

Off of Rosa Parks Blvd near Clairmount, 3 blocks south of where the 1967 riots began. The area never recovered. Nature is now doing what people did to the buildings.

Off of Rosa Parks Blvd near Clairmount, 3 blocks south of where the 1967 riots began. The area never recovered. Nature is now doing what people did to the buildings.

Taylor Street near Woodward on what has become a typical afternoon in Detroit. Rain doesn't fall anymore. It pounds.

Taylor Street near Woodward on what has become a typical afternoon in Detroit. Rain doesn't fall anymore. It pounds.

Kevin Farida, manager of King Cole Foods at Clairmount and Woodward. He lost thousands of dollars because customers didn't come in the store and he had to throw out  all food that might have spoiled.

Kevin Farida, manager of King Cole Foods at Clairmount and Woodward. He lost thousands of dollars because customers didn't come in the store and he had to throw out all food that might have spoiled.

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