AEP official: ‘Worst ever’

GONE with the wind had special meaning to Eastern Ohio residents as winds swept through the area during extreme heat, resulting in damages of varying degrees and power outages.

The area was hammered by many of the problems Friday night, but to make matters worse, there was an encore Sunday night.

“This is the worst,” said Carmen Prati-Miller of American Electric Power. “It’s one of the largest storm restoration efforts AEP has ever seen. Damages have been beyond belief.”

Throughout the Ohio Valley, there were 10,400 outages as of this morning. This includes Belmont, Jefferson, Harrison counties and a small portion of Monroe County in Ohio as well as Ohio and Marshall counties in West Virginia.

Also, as of today at 8 a.m., AEP was dealing with 420,000 outages throughout Ohio and the Northern Panhandle of West Virgina, down from a peak of 660,000.

Barnesville, Holloway and Flushing areas were particularly hard hit by Friday’s storm, according to Prati-Miller.

As of today, 5,700 AEP customers in the Belmont County are without electrical power with 90 percent restoration expected at midnight Wednesday. In Ohio and Marshall counties, 3,800 are without power, and 90 percent restoration is expected by Friday midnight.

“We have statewide over 400,000 people participating in the restoration,” said Prati-Miller, who added help is being received from areas such Michigan, Alabama, Philadelphia and New York. Ohio, however, isn’t alone in needing line workers.

The AEP spokeswoman said the storms “took a swath through this part of the country” so other other areas are in need of line personnel.

In Jefferson County, the outages had been essentially restored until Sunday night’s storm, and then it resulted in 1,000 outages. Prati-Miller said 100 percent restoration is expected in Jefferson County tonight by midnight.

Six poles were down in Marshall County, and it took an hour by car Sunday to get to the troubled area. Noting that line trucks were trying to get to the same area, she said, “It’s not a quick fix.”

When Prati-Miller was telling about the drastic situation, she said it was nearly this bad when Hurricane Ike occurred in 2008.

She asked residents to check on their neighbors and also to be sure to turn off electronics which happened to be on when the power went off.

People also are to stay away from downed power line and to call AEP immediately at 1-800-672-2231.

President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency in Ohio late Saturday at the request of Gov. John Kasich, who had declared a state emergency and called out the National Guard to check on people needing help. The National Guard was making door-to-door checks in the Columbus and Dayton areas and would be sent to other areas, if needed.

At the peak of the first storm Friday night, about 45 percent of AEP Ohio customers were without power. By Sunday night at 6, the company had restored power to more than 250,000 of the 660,000 customers affected by the catastrophic storms that moved through the state Friday, according to a news release.

To complicate matters, a line of new storms resulted in 20,000 additional customer outages Sunday night.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said trucks carrying water were on the road Sunday to a half dozen distribution points in Southern and Eastern Ohio, and one of the distribution points was Woodsfield. Water also was taken to Athens, Gallipolis, Hillsboro, Marietta and New Vienna with more water trucks on the way into Ohio.

In addition to Obama’s and Kasich’s declarations, similar actions were taken in other areas of the Buckeye State.

In Monroe County, for example, the county commissioners had a special meeting Saturday to declare the county as a disaster area. Commissioner Carl Davis said the county’s Emergency Management Agency was in contact with the governor’s office several times over the weekend.

Davis indicated the most damages appeared to have occurred in Wayne, Perry and Lee townships – “kind of a strip just south of Woodsfield.” There were damages all over the county, and the roof on the grandstand at the Monroe County Fairgrounds was torn off.

The Beallsville Emergency Squad was responding to a call, and a tree hit the squad’s vehicle, he added.

In the area south of Woodsfield, high winds resulted in trees on the road and power lines down. Homes also were damaged, and Davis said it appeared that two of them were beyond repair.

Because of the weather and power outages, cooling centers will be opened in Belmont County should the need arise. Anyone requesting a need for a cooling center may contact one of the following locations for assistance: Barnesville United Methodist Church, (740) 425-1996; Spirit of 76 Fire Department, (740) 676-1551; James E. Carnes Center, (740) 359-4583; Somerton Fire Department, (740) 757-2565; and Flushing Fire Department, (740) 968-4700. Those having questions are to call the Belmont County EMA, (740) 695-5984.

Cooling areas also were opened in other parts of the state.

The Associated Press reported that Ohio officials said Sunday they knew of only one confirmed storm death. A 70-year-old woman died Friday evening in Muskingum County when a barn collapsed after she had gone to check on animals during the storm.

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