Utility crews continue to work around the clock days after the storm

Utility crews continue to work around the clock to restore electricity to homes and businesses following Sunday's severe storms.

Utility crews continue to work around the clock to restore electricity to homes and businesses following Sunday's severe storms.

Since noon Sunday, more than 334,000 homes and businesses, or more than 18 percent of

Consumers Energy's

customers, have been affected by severe weather and high winds. As of 4:30 a.m. Thursday, 14,400 customers remain without power.

Most customers should have their power restored by late tonight. Harder hit areas, including portions of Genesee, Allegan, Barry and Kalamazoo counties, should have power restored by late Friday. Estimates will be updated as assessment and repairs continue. Additional storm activity may prolong restoration times.

"We thank our valued customers for their continued patience as we near the end of the storm restoration work," said Mary Palkovich, vice president of energy delivery for the utility. "We are safely working night and day to get everyone's power restored as soon as possible."

The 1,800 field workers from Consumers Energy and eight other states, as far away as Oklahoma, are part of more than 2,600 office and field personnel dedicated to the storm restoration effort. In terms of customer outages, this is Consumers Energy's largest storm in more than five years. In June 2008, storms interrupted power to nearly 380,000 customers.

As of 4:30 a.m. Thursday areas most affected by electric interruptions were: Allegan (763), Barry (858), Calhoun (1,849), Clare (195), Eaton (768), Genesee (1,865), Hillsdale (282), Ingham (363), Iosco (411), Jackson (397), Kalamazoo (1,868), Kent (202), Livingston (158), Midland (439), Ogemaw (119) and Shiawassee (2,267).

The public is reminded that there may still be downed wires and to remain vigilant and safe. Consumers Energy cautions residents to stay at least 25 feet away from any downed wires and to report them immediately by calling 1-800-477-5050 or their local law enforcement agency. The utility also reminds customers to be alert to utility crews working along roads and urges drivers to take extra precautions in those situations. In particular, drivers should slow down or stop and wait for oncoming traffic to clear so they safely can go past utility workers and equipment on roadsides. In addition, with the Michigan firearm deer season underway, hunters are encouraged to use extreme caution while in wooded areas, to be aware of any possible downed wires.

Customers who lose electricity for an extended period of time may want to investigate if public shelters are available. In most counties, residents can dial 2-1-1 to receive shelter information or to request assistance. Before going to a shelter, residents are asked to contact their local emergency management office to confirm the availability of services. Individuals are encouraged to check on elderly neighbors and family members who have limited mobility to see if they need assistance. With colder temperatures and some local shelters scheduled to close, customers are reminded not to heat their homes by unsafe methods such as gas ovens and outdoor grills.

In some cases, the mast which holds the electric service wires to a customer's home or business may have been damaged or torn away. Utility crews will reconnect the wires to a home, but only a licensed electrician can repair or replace a mast or a cable.

Consumers Energy will trim or remove trees interfering with electric restoration activities. Once safe to do so, clean-up of debris from tree trimming or removal during a storm emergency is the responsibility of individual property owners.