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Power outage leaves Motor City low on fuel

Mousa Bazzi, second from left, owner of a gas station in Detroit, tries to calm customers Friday. Police were called to maintain order and shut down the station.
Mousa Bazzi, second from left, owner of a gas station in Detroit, tries to calm customers Friday. Police were called to maintain order and shut down the station.

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DETROIT, Michigan (CNN) -- With most service stations in Detroit closed because of the power blackout, even tow trucks and an auto club van that cruises for stranded drivers in the Motor City ran out of gas.

With estimates ranging from late Friday night to the latter part of the weekend before power is restored in Detroit, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said he's impressed with the "spirit of community" in his city.

Kilpatrick said he expects power to be restored first in the suburbs, noting it's not "anti-Detroit to start first in rural areas."

The mayor asked businesses to remain closed for the time being, to help conserve power. Hospitals are operating on backup power. Kilpatrick said garbage collection resumed Friday morning.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Friday declared a state of emergency for metropolitan Detroit and ordered emergency gasoline shipments from western Michigan.

Granholm said there's been "evidence of gas and other types of gouging," including steep prices by some people selling ice. She urged anyone aware of price gouging to contact the consumer protection division of the state attorney general's office.

She said the gas that is available should be used sparingly. "We would encourage people to stay off the road if possible."

Liz Boyd, the governor's spokeswoman, told CNN that many Detroit area stations closed because of the power outage. But she said a few are open "because they have generators, or for whatever reason. They've been very busy," she said.

A survey by the auto club AAA Michigan found that only five of 54 gas stations in the Detroit area were open.

The club operates "courtesy patrols" in the Detroit area, sending vans to help stranded motorists with gasoline or other needs. Thursday night, the courtesy van ran out of gas, according to AAA Michigan spokeswoman Nancy Cain, and it had to be rescued.

"It's very ironic, because they're out there to help. We've also heard of tow trucks running out of gas," she said.

The power outage created evening rush hour gridlock on Detroit-area roads Thursday. Motorists got the message and many stayed home Friday, Cain said.

General Motors told all employees in Detroit and the four counties that make up the metropolitan area to stay home Friday. GM offices at the Renaissance Center also were closed. Ford and DaimlerChrysler plants in southeastern Michigan were closed as well.

The state fair also has been postponed.

Granholm said there have been "many examples of selflessness," including donations of bottled water by Wal-Mart and the Ice Mountain bottling plant in western Michigan.

The governor has asked grocery stores and restaurants stuck to donate to the needy any perishable food that cannot be saved.

Officials said there were 88 arrests overnight Thursday. Chief Jerry Oliver said 22 people were involved in minor looting.

No curfews are planned for Detroit, but some suburbs were imposing curfews starting from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is pumping about half the water it usually handles as authorities work to get pumps running. The department is asking people to conserve water, and boil water for at least five minutes before drinking it. The priority is to make sure there is enough water for hospitals, where water is critically needed for dialysis machines and other purposes.

Kilpatrick said trucks have brought water to the 12,000 people in the city's public housing projects. The Department of Public Works is delivering fuel to keep generators running at housing projects and other places.

In addition, large water trucks are stationed at the city's airport and Rouge Park for anyone who needs water. Detroit has greater pumping needs than some other cities, because water must be pumped uphill from Lake Erie. Granholm said that altogether, the National Guard has also brought 27 of the trucks known as "water buffalo" to the Detroit area.

Three city schools have been designated as "cooling centers," where people can get away from the heat. Additional cooling centers have been established in surrounding communities.

Schools are expected to start the fall term, as planned, on August 25, with teachers due to report Wednesday.

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