We Energies restores power to 204,000 customers, shifting to 'hand-on-hand combat' restoration effort

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- As of Thursday evening on Aug. 12, We Energies said it restored power to about 204,000 customers out of an initial 225,000 that lost power from Tuesday's severe storms.

"We are literally fighting a battle here, a war on the destruction that was caused by the horrendous storms that we saw here on Tuesday night," We Energies president Tom Metcalfe said in a news conference.

The utilities company has more than 1,000 crew members and subcontractors working on power restoration, the largest and longest effort the company has ever seen.

"In terms of the numbers of customers impacted, certainly in the last 20 years we've not seen anything like this," Metcalfe told reporters.

Metcalfe said significant progress had been made since Tuesday, with main power lines restored to the largest portions of customers. However, about 50,000 customers remain without power as of Thursday afternoon.

"Our focus now is more on a hand-on-hand combat, one customer at a time restoration effort," Metcalfe said.

Rizwad Ahmad's home in Wauwatosa went dark right when the storm hit Tuesday.

“It went out at like 7:15. I figured it'll be back up, it'll be back up and I waited until like 9:30 or so. So after two hours I was like that's enough. We had the candles and the flashlights going.” said Ahmad. 

Even with a generator, these are uncomfortable days for Ahmad and dozens of others on his block.

“I don't know, it's been kind of hard but I'm just hoping the power will come on soon," said Nina Ahmad.

The generator's not able to run their air conditioner.

“And it's starting to get hotter and hotter in the house. I've been looking at the hourly forecast to see when the cool front's coming so we can open the windows,” said Ahmad.

But the generator's keeping his well running, and the refrigerator too.

“The fridge is running, the lights are on, so it's keeping the food cool,” said Ahmad.

Betty Johnson Wraggs isn't as lucky. She lost all her refrigerated food in her Milwaukee home at 14th and Atkinson.

"Oh, all my meat. I had meat. I threw it all out,” said Johnson Wraggs.

She was trying to fill up at a gas station on Green Bay Road, but found it too had no power.

“I just hope it gets better, over soon, just praying every day and dear God bless us all,” said Johnson Wraggs.

“No one's inside, all the lights are out and looks like they have no power. Pumps aren't working either. You can't even put your credit card in to get gas,” said Kevin Vaughn, who works on Milwaukee’s north side.

Elsewhere in Milwaukee, people trying to keep cool, buying bags of ice.

We Energies says the goal is to restore power to 95 percent of customers by end of day Friday and about 100 percent by midday Saturday.

For the most current outage information, visit the We Energies outage map.

Helpful efforts

The widespread outages are sparking authorities like the Wauwatosa Police Department to do extra patrols to offer water and make wellness checks on residents.

Neighbors are also stepping up.

Gretchen Prescott and her husband do have power and decided to help neighbors by offering outlets for charging phones and other resources for people that may need them.

"For the people that had no families, that couldn't just go to somebody else's house, didn't have any friends, didn’t know anybody, you know, I wanted to offer them help and this is a nice community and a neighborly community and everyone's here to help," Prescott said.

In Fox Point, the Friendship Café offered free breakfast for those without power.

"From the time we came here, the response has been so warm," Bernard Davidson of Bayside said. "I'm finding that people in this area are warm, they have concern."

The idea came out of a spirit to help the community get their day started after a stormy stretch of days.

"For so many people, their life has to move on," Levi Stein, the executive director of Friendship Café, said. "And when you don't have power, something as simple as breakfast can really throw you off. You need your coffee and you need your breakfast, you need to charge your cellphone."

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