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Area utilities respond quickly when the electricity goes out



Published: Sun, April 21, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Except for the occasional blinking clock and need to reset the VCR, power outages haven't been too much of a problem for some residents of Boardman.

"Our power has been pretty good," said Terraview Drive resident A.C. Muter. "We've never had any problem that I know of."

Muter was among those who lost power in October when high winds blew wires together near the Shops at Boardman Park. The outage lasted about 30 minutes.

Tom Lowry, another Terraview Drive resident, noted that most outages he experiences are short.

"The clocks go off and then come right back on," he said.

Lowry, Muter and some of their neighbors also said they don't stockpile supplies for use during a long-term outage.

To be safe

Linda Beil, the director of Trumbull County's Emergency Management Agency, recommends having enough food or supplies on hand to last for 72 hours in case of emergencies such as long-term power outages.

Marianne Poprik, also of Terraview Drive, said she has lanterns placed in some rooms of her house so her relatives can find their way around during an outage. She added that she has a generator so her elderly mother can still use an oxygen machine if the power goes out.

Poprik also said she doesn't have food set aside in case of an outage. She stressed that most outages at her home are short.

"It comes on really fast, usually," Poprik said.

Outages also seem to be an infrequent occurrence, statistics from some local power officials show.

Larry Durkos, the light superintendent for Newton Falls, said his city had a total of 14 outages last year. He said most of the outages affected only four or five homes.

Jay Groner, the service director for Columbiana, said his city has "very few outages." Statistics for Columbiana were not immediately available, he added.

Power officials for the city of Hubbard, which also has a municipal power service, did not return calls for comment.

In Niles: Jim Newbrough, the Niles light superintendent, said his city had fewer than five major outages last year. Major outages affect more than 200 homes, he said. Newbrough said the city does not keep statistics for outages that affect fewer than 200 homes.

Greg Petrasek, a local area manager for Ohio Edison, a First Energy company, said his company does not keep statistics for local outages in the Mahoning Valley. Ohio Edison provides power to all of Mahoning County and most of Columbiana and Trumbull counties.

Petrasek, however, stressed that most Ohio Edison customers say they are pleased with their service. "Our reliability is one of the best in the country," he said.

Area Manager Paul Harkey added that Ohio Edison works to prevent "brownouts," which occur when a home or business does not receive enough power voltage.

Harkey said the company keeps itself to a strict voltage standard to ensure that homes get the correct amount of voltage.

Bad time: Petrasek said many outages occur in the early spring, when snow can collect in the leaves that are sprouting on trees. The snow can be heavy enough to break off branches and send them crashing into power lines.

Durkos added that trees also cause many outages in the summer, when winds blow branches into lines.

"When the leaves are out on the trees, you have more lightning and wind damage," he said.

Petrasek stressed that local residents should call Ohio Edison when they have an outage. Calls are routed directly to a dispatch center, he said, where troubleshooters use circuit maps to determine where the damage that caused the outage could have occurred.

The amount of time needed to restore power depends on the travel time to the damaged line and the type of repairs that need to be made, Petrasek said. He said it can take as little as 15 minutes or as long as 2 1/2 hours to restore power.

Ohio Edison workers "have a lot of pride in getting people on as fast as possible," Petrasek said.

In Pa.: Employees of First Energy's Pennsylvania company also have been working hard to respond to outages and provide quality service, said state Rep. Frank LaGrotta, a Democrat from Ellwood City, Pa. LaGrotta said that last year, he suggested Penn Power replace or repair some of its equipment to provide better service.

"Penn Power has responded unbelievably well," LaGrotta said, noting that the company returned service within 15 minutes of when he reported a recent outage.

hill@vindy.com




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