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Lightning strikes two turbines

BAD AXE – DTE Energy says its wind turbines were able to withstand 90-mph winds from the EF-1 tornado the National Weather Service confirmed in Owendale Sunday.

Some turbines however, would bow to the storms’ fury, as lightning struck two blade tips in McKinley Township, Thumb Operations Manager Dennis Buda told county planners Wednesday night.

Buda said DTE officials got phone alerts of the strikes.

“We watch that very, very closely,” he said.

Repair crews surveyed the turbines Wednesday afternoon and the damages were not thought to be permanent, Buda said. They’ll be repaired “before the snow flies,” he said.

Planted in farmland across the county, wind turbines are the tallest structures in site. Towers approach 325 feet, and, with blade lengths, can reach heights of more than 400 feet.

Buda, who has called Huron County a “mecca for lightning,” said all DTE turbines have a lightning rod and receptors in blade tips that bring lightning to the ground. Past strikes have brought crop damages – DTE says it pays landowners for those damages – and forced the utility to replace blades.

Last August, Buda told county planners that, “since we started,” DTE had about 17 blades struck by lightning.

Turbines aren’t immune to high wind speeds, either.

DTE says its turbines are programmed to automatically shut down and enter an idle state if winds blow 42 mph or more for a period of 15 minutes. Blades start turning again after wind speeds measure below 42 mph for that same period. They’re monitored 24/7 locally in Cass City and by computer in San Diego, Buda previously said.

Landowners with turbines nearby may call Buda at 313-318-6866 if problems occur.