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Detroit Goes Dark After Major Power Outage

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The lights are back on in Detroit tonight. Power has been restored after a massive outage which paralyzed much of the city's business district today. The power went out because of a cable failure in an aging system. Quinn Klinefelter of member station WDET reports.

QUINN KLINEFELTER, BYLINE: Around 10 this morning, power shut off to courts, schools and government offices in Detroit. More than 900 sites were affected. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says the city is switching to new power system operated by a private utility, but that will take years.

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MAYOR MIKE DUGGAN: A part of the old system that hadn't failed before failed. The staff properly switched the power to a new circuit. The new circuit failed. At that point, there is such a fear of overloading the system that the whole thing shut down.

KLINEFELTER: People were trapped in elevators at City Hall. Hospitals switched to backup generators. Detroit City Official Gary Brown says even fire stations were without power because there are not enough generators to go around.

GARY BROWN: All of the fire station doors, which is important to be able to get the engines out to an emergency, can be opened manually. It doesn't take very much time to open a fire station door by pulling the chains.

KLINEFELTER: Nine-one-one service was not interrupted, but the daily routine of students, like Wayne County Community College's Alexis Graham, were.

ALEXIS GRAHAM: Like, every other street light was out. When I got to Wayne County, the doors were closed, so I couldn't even get in there.

KLINEFELTER: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says the city will invest a billion dollars, in part, to help prevent such outages, but that's going to happen over the next decade.

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DUGGAN: Today is another reminder of how much work we still have to do to rebuild this city, and a bankruptcy order doesn't solve the decades of neglect.

KLINEFELTER: For NPR News, I'm Quinn Klinefelter in Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.