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State government offices set to reopen Friday as polar vortex ends

(WJRT)
Published: Jan. 31, 2019 at 5:30 PM EST
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(01/13/19) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state department heads provided a comprehensive update of how all state departments are responding during the State of Emergency issued this week.

A fire Wednesday at a Consumers Energy gas compressor station in Macomb County fiercely ignited calls for consumers to use less gas and turn thermostats to 65 degrees .

"Just by turning down thermostats last night they saw usage decline which meant that it's still online right now and no big outages have happened," Whitmer said.

Whitmer was surrounded by a team of state department heads who addressed the latest on road conditions, which have been especially dangerous in parts of mid-Michigan.

"We also have some additional directed patrols with our troopers, mainly in the 3rd and 7th district and in the thumb and northern Michigan, and that's mainly due to cars that are stranded out there," Michigan State Police Lt. Col. Chris Kelenske.

The state Department of Transportation has had about 1,200 trucks on the roadway around the clock for the last couple of days, 300 of them are Michigan Department of Transportation trucks and 900 are from local counties.

"However, we're also preparing for when we get through this very severe weather cycle, to start getting ready for some pavement patching," said MDOT Director Paul Ajegba.

But before the thaw gets here there is still more extreme cold to deal with. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services responded to some 53 'no heat' emergencies in 26 different counties reported through 211.

There's no official word yet from the state on weather-related deaths.

"The fatalities we're still getting information on - what exactly the number is as well as what the cause was," Whitmer said.

Attorney General Dana Nessel warned people about excessive high prices for energy products, utility and furnace repair scams. She encouraged people to contact the consumer protection division with concerns.

The governor moving forward with requesting a utilities report to be ready for future emergencies.

"I'm going to be asking public service commission for initial statewide review of supply and deliverability of natural gas, electricity and propane and contingency planning by July 1st of this year with a final report to follow," she said.

This is not just the coldest weather we've had since 1994, but the three closures this week of state office buildings are the most Michigan has had in about 30 years, according to Department of Management and Budget Director Tricia Foster.

With Consumers Energy giving the all clear at midnight Thursday night to end emergency reductions, the state is focused on getting buildings back in order.

"Next step for us are opening up the buildings safely. Any time you have so many people that are adhering and doing a good job at turning things down you have to be careful about how you ramp back up so that you don't cause more problems," Foster said.

Foster said that in cooperation with Consumers, state government buildings had turned the thermostat to 63 degrees.

"When we learned that Consumers needed our help yesterday afternoon after our call, we had scheduled calls twice a day. What we determined was that on facilities we were going to react immediately so we went down to 63 degrees and we also sent messages out to our landlords who we lease space from to request that they comply to the 65 degree," Foster said.

Thursday, Whitmer said she has not yet conferred with the Michigan Department of Education. She said she was putting an emphasis on safety in this current phase of the emergency, but will meet with education officials soon.