Storm leads to road closures, power outages in Bridgeport

T-L Photo/KIM NORTH An uprooted tree lies on its side in Bridgeport. It was one of several casualties of an early Tuesday storm that swept through the area.


Times Leader Staff Writer

BRIDGEPORT — Falling trees blocked roads and struck homes and vehicles, leaving thousands of residents without power in Belmont County as a result of Tuesday’s early morning storm.

The severe weather arrived 32 years to the day after drenching rains falling on already saturated soil caused deadly flash flooding on Wegee and Pipe creeks in the Shadyside area. On June 14, 1990, 26 people died as a result of that flooding.

On Tuesday in Bridgeport, firefighters were out all night working to remove uprooted trees and limbs from roadways. Fire Chief Mark Subasic said there were a lot of trees down and a great deal of power line damage sustained from the storm.

“It was really bad on Kirkwood Heights,” he said.

During the day, village crews worked to clear the roads and assist with damages.

Police Officer Brenton Boston said there were trees down on South Lincoln Avenue and Bennett Street that damaged multiple parked vehicles. At least two cars had broken windshields from limbs falling onto the vehicles.

Boston said multiple power lines were downed, causing dozens of power outages in the village.

“There was a power line down across Main Street by Rent-A-Center and Just JAC’s Drive Thru,” he said, adding that American Electric Power was able to quickly restore the power to the area.

There was also a large outage on the south side of the community, including areas on Bennett Street, Whitley Street and Gould Park Road. As of Tuesday afternoon, that area remained without power.

Though there was some property damage, Boston said no injuries were reported.

The 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Bennett Street experienced strong winds that uprooted two huge trees – one believed to be 100 years old – and knocked down several others. South Lincoln Avenue was closed due to one of the uprooted trees, along with one in front of the post office at the intersection of South Lincoln Avenue and Howard Street.

The other uprooted tree – in the 200 block of Bennett St. – was lying on top of a car, while several cars in the 400 block of Whitely had windshields and a back window broken out.

One house on Bennett Street had some siding ripped off by the wind.

Chief Deputy James Zusack said the sheriff’s department was pretty busy as a result of the adverse weather, with the majority of calls coming in overnight Monday into early Tuesday morning. He said the main concern in the aftermath of the storm was the amount of power outages.

Zusack said the other major issue involved blockages from trees being uprooted and knocked onto the roads.

“It’s nothing out of the ordinary, that I know of,” he said.

According to PowerOutage.US, there were nearly 8,000 customers without power in Belmont County on Tuesday afternoon.

The storm caused more minor outages and damage in Harrison County. Eric Wilson, director of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency, said they were “pretty lucky” in comparison to surrounding counties where the storm was much worse.

“We had a lot of trees down from the wind, so it brought down some power lines and we’ve got some roads that are blocked,” he said.

Wilson said there were no reports of flooding, injuries or displacements from the storm. He said there were around 200 residents who experienced power outages.

“But nothing critical like the hospital or courthouse, so we’re really lucky,” he said.

The area of Harrison County hit the hardest was the village of Freeport, specifically the Tippecanoe area, where numerous reports of downed trees were made.

“I’m sure every village had trees down – Hopedale, Cadiz has trees down. We get our gauge of damage from 911 reports and the majority of 911 reports came in from the Freeport, Tippecanoe area but that’s not to say there weren’t other areas. A lot of the time people won’t report it, they will just cut the trees up themselves,” he said.

Wilson said the only structural damage reported was on Mill Hill Road, where a tree fell onto a cabin, though he is unsure of the extent of the damage.

Wilson recommended motorists drive carefully and be aware of their surroundings when traveling on the roadways.

The county recently conducted an emergency drill in which numerous entities came together to attempt to make Harrison County safer. The dril included representatives from the water systems of Bowerston, Cadiz and Scio; members of the Cadiz Volunteer Fire Department, Hopedale Fire and EMS, representatives of the Meadows, Harrison County EMA, Harrison County Health Department and Ohio EMA. Wilson said emergency response plans from the Bowerston, Cadiz and Scio water systems were tested, as well as the fire department’s response to a chlorine leak.

“It was a great opportunity and it went really well. It was the first time we worked with the water departments. … Everybody was well versed in their response procedures and nothing unexpected came up. We had a few things we identified that we could work on like better identifying the chemicals that are inside the plant on the outside of the building so that responders might know what’s there,” he said.

“And we talked about a chemical leak, especially if it’s a cloud or gas, knowing the wind direction is very important.”

The drill was an important experience that allowed all the departments to interact and get familiar with one another’s jobs during a response.

Wilson said drills like the one held over the weekend can also assist in response amid weather related response.

“It really doesn’t matter what would cause an outage whether it’s weather related or manmade, it all benefits that,” he said.

Unlike neighboring counties, the worst of the storm missed Monroe County almost entirely, according to county EMA Director Phil Keevert.

“We didn’t have any calls overnight for any damage or power outages or anything. We were in the office until quarter ’til 4 a.m. this morning and nothing came in,” he said.

Keevert said officials kept an eye on the radar throughout the night and early morning, and the storm appeared to split around the county.

“It kind of separated when it came close to us. It went into Belmont (County) and down to Washington (County), but we only got a little bit of rain and lightning. That was about it,” he said.

“We didn’t even really have any winds over 10-15 mph.”


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