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Big cleanup begins amid heat, outages

Governor declares state of emergency. Some residents could be without power through Wednesday.

local cooling centers

The Clark County Combined Health District announced several businesses and government buildings were open during regular hours as cooling centers, including Meijer, both Walmart locations, the Upper Valley Mall and five branches of the Clark County Public Library, including the main branch, the Southern Village Shopping Center branch, the Park Shopping Center branch, the Enon branch and the Houston branch in South Charleston. Bethel Twp. Fire Station No. 51 Community Room is also available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Health officials recommend residents wear loose clothing, eat light meals and cool down with showers or swimming. They also recommend residents drink water and steer clear of alcoholic beverages, which may increase the risk of heat-related illness. Children and pets should not be left unattended in closed vehicles.

Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans remained without power Saturday during the hottest weather stretch in two decades, causing Gov. John Kasich to declare a state of emergency.

Dayton Power & Light estimated that some people who lost electricity after Friday’s violent windstorm could remain without power through Wednesday. Ohio Edison said customers might not have electricity restored until Monday night.

“Extensive damage caused by last night’s storms left millions without power in a swath from Indiana to the east coast,” DP&L said in a statement Saturday. “The violent thunderstorms caused significant damage to DP&L’s electrical systems throughout our service area.”

Across the Miami Valley, more than 75,000 customers were still without power Saturday, leaving businesses closed across Montgomery, Greene and Clark counties.

In Clark County, more than 42,000 customers were without electricity Friday immediately after winds of nearly 60 mph ripped through the area. That number was reduced to about 6,800 by 7:30 p.m.

Ohio Edison will provide customers in Clark County who continue to be without power from storms and high winds two gallons of water and one bag of ice free of charge at the following local stores:

  • Kroger, 2300 N. Limestone St., Springfield
  • Kroger, 2989 Derr Rd., Springfield

Go to the customer service desk, and identify the need and supplies will be provided.

The local damage was only part of the story.

Kasich requested federal emergency assistance, as well as the activation of 200 in the National Guard who will be deployed today in urban areas in central Ohio and Cincinnati.

“The state of emergency allows state of Ohio to help the local (agencies), including the activation of the National Guard,” Kasich said Saturday.

Thousands of Ohioans could remain without power through Monday and Tuesday, Kasich said.

“In this case we’ve got two-thirds of the state impacted,” he said. “It covers so much of the state that we feel strongly we need to do this.”

The National Guard will check on the elderly, the most vulnerable population, providing water and other assistance.

“We want to get the guard out there aggressively working with people so people don’t feel they have been left alone,” Kasich said. “This is really a matter of being aggressive and staying ahead of the curve.”

At 5 p.m., DP&L issued a statement that said “We anticipate that 95 percent of the 175,000 customers impacted by Friday’s storm will be restored by Wednesday night.”

DP&L has more than 500,000 customers in 24 counties, including New Carlisle and South Charleston as well as most of Champaign County.

Ohio Edison summoned help from other parts of parent company First Energy’s systems and had 400 people working around the clock on repairs in Clark County on Saturday and again today.

“You always want to go quicker,” Ohio Edison Area Manager Tim Suter said.

He said crews are seeing lots of problems with backyard damage and cannot get to some areas as easily as others.

“There’s a lot of climbing going on,” Suter said.

DP&L said mutual assistance teams from Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Wisconsin were here or were to arrive soon, with 1,000 workers focused on restoring power.

“Today our crews continued to work to make repairs to the transmission system — the high voltage power lines that bring power to cities and villages,” the statement said. “This is the essential first step to restoring power to homes and businesses.”

Across the region, people were trying to stay cool without air conditioning. Some people used their cars to power fans.

Clark County Emergency Management Agency Director Lisa D’Allessandris Safety urged the public to be patient as crews assess and repair the damage.

“Lines that are still live are still down in roads,” she said.

Branches are also down on lines and roads. Once those are handled, “then they can start getting onto restoration.”

Because the power outages happened during a heat wave, EMA has arranged for nursing homes and extended care facilities that can accept the elderly, frail or medically dependent, such as those who need oxygen, she said.

D’Allessandris also encouraged homeowners to turn off power to as many things as possible so that when power is restored, it does not surge and start a fire.

High temperatures forecast in the 90s today through the end of the week, and heat indices expected to be near 100 part of that time. A heat advisory is in effect today from noon to 8 p.m.

Charles Patterson, commissioner of the Clark County Health District, said Friday’s storm caused damage but cooled the area down into the 60s.

“It gave people a respite,” Patterson said.

He said officials are worried because lows aren’t supposed to get back into the 60s for several more days.

Patterson said restaurants and local grocery stores have done a great job in discarding food that may have been deemed unhealthy after the power outages. They’ve concentrated their efforts this weekend on working with businesses on food safety, and plan to do so for several days.

“As the power is restored, we’re going to be working with them to make sure they’re checking temperatures of their coolers, maintaining those and making sure their food has been handled accordingly,” Patterson said.

Patterson estimated more than 20 restaurants and businesses have been dealing with power outages, including several in Medway and Enon. The Kroger on Main Street was closed part of Saturday and stored some of its products in refrigerated trucks.

“Every single (business) has been doing the things we already would expect them to do,” Patterson said. “We’ve been very happy with the operators of the food services in Clark County at this point.”

Champaign County Health District Commissioner Shelia Hiddleson said she hadn’t received any calls from food services about issues on Saturday.

Patterson said residents without electricity should also be cautious in what they consume from the refrigerator while the power’s out.

The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours in unopened, while a full freezer will hold temperature for approximately 48 hours and a half-full freezer will hold for approximately 24 hours. Refrigerated food must be kept at below 40 degrees, Patterson said. If it reaches 41 degrees, it either needs to be eaten or discarded at that point. When meat in a freezer starts to thaw, Patterson said, it needs to cooked and consumed right away or else it could be hazardous.

German Twp. fire chief Tim Holman said the station’s power was out for several hours, but was restored Saturday afternoon. Several areas of the township were still without power, including all of Tremont City. They had also cleared most of the roadways of debris in the township.

Holman said they made a few runs for power surges on Saturday, but there were no injuries or damage to the homes. He said residents without power must remember to unplug appliances before they leave because some will still be on when the power returns and cause surges or other issues.

“They weren’t serious,” Holman said. “We had a couple people whose power had come back on and they had left appliances, like a stove and items like that, and it became a fire hazard.”

As of 4 p.m. Saturday, 3,200 in Champaign County were still without power, according to estimates. Champaign County EMA director Craig Evans said several areas had power restored in the afternoon, including Christiansburg, St. Paris and Mechanicsburg.

In Urbana, 1,400 residents were still without power, but were expected to have it restored by Sunday. Other areas, however, may not be as fortunate, Evans said.

“The isolated ones, they may be down for literally days,” Evans said.

In response to the weather and the power outages, Champaign County opened two cooling centers, one at the Johnson-St. Paris fire station and another at the Bodey Circle fire station in Urbana.

“We wanted to have some place they could get to and be more comfortable,” Evans said.

The county was still in clean-up mode on Saturday afternoon, working to clear roads of debris left by the severe weather.

“We’ve gotten them pretty much cleaned up, or at least moved off to the side,” Evans said.

The Subway restaurant at 355 Main Street in St. Paris had its roof ripped off during the storm Friday. A small piece of debris from the building shot into the Dollar General store next door and lodged into the wall. Power lines had also fallen in the area, but weren’t live.

Kasich said the state of emergency will allow state and local leaders to coordinate resources, access generators and provide water and other needs to people in need.

“This is a time when Ohioans clearly need to help one another,” Kasich said. “We encourage all Ohioans to look toward their neighbors to make sure everyone is OK.

The governor said that the state was responding well to the challenging situation

“But it’s really a race against time and a race against temperatures,” Kasich said. “We got to hope we get cooler weather and we’re going to do whatever we can.”

Staff writers Tiffany Latta and Sharahn Boykin contributed to this story.