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Electric utilities mobilize for snowstorm forecast today

Monday, April 23, 2012

By Peter H. Milliken


Electric utilities are mobilizing a major power restoration effort in advance of a storm expected to dump up to 8 inches of snow on the Mahoning Valley today.

Large amounts of heavy wet snow are expected to fall on leaf-laden tree branches buffeted by high winds, causing them to topple onto power lines and trigger power outages.

The National Weather Service predicts a winter storm could drop heavy snow on a narrow strip of Northeast Ohio, including the Mahoning Valley, with winds up to 45 mph howling across most of the northern half of the state.

“Monday’s expected wet snow and high winds have the potential to cause damage to the electrical system, especially since many trees already have leaves due to an unseasonably warm spring,” First Energy said in a statement released Sunday.

“Heavily-weighted branches, limbs and entire trees may fall, taking down power lines and snapping utility poles,” according to the Akron-based utility, which includes Ohio Edison and Penn Power.

The NWS has issued a winter storm warning, with most of the snow expected today and tonight.

Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties are expected to get up to 8 inches of snow, with Cleveland possibly getting no more than an inch. Low temperatures will be in the 30s.

The inclement weather forced Jennifer Jones, Youngstown Litter Control and Recycling coordinator, to postpone a litter cleanup by Choffin Career Center students that had been scheduled for today in Youngstown’s 1st, 2nd and 6th wards.

Jones said the event may be rescheduled for Wednesday or Thursday.

With many plants at Mill Creek Park’s Fellows Riverside Gardens in full bloom, Marcy Dubec, a full-time gardener there, said of the impact on the park’s plants: “It really depends how cold it gets and how much snow we get.”

“Flowers that are up now, they might get knocked down. It depends on how far developed they are. The buds are real tender, so we might lose some flowering,” Dubec said.

“We have a lot of azaleas and rhododendrons that are early flowering this year that might get knocked down. Most of our tulips and our daffodils have already passed their peaks, so there won’t be a full loss there. Things like pansies and the early spring flowers will make it through, depending on how long the snow lasts,” Dubec said.

“I can’t imagine it would last very long,” she added.

“We had a late snow a couple of years ago. We had hyacinths up, and it just folded them in half, and they were done for,” she recalled.

As for bluebells, she said: “Hopefully, they’re going to be protected enough by the trees that they won’t get a lot of heavy snow. They might get broken over too.”

Bill Whitehouse, the park’s naturalist emeritus, who led a three-mile Earth Day hike in the park on Sunday, said he didn’t think the snow would have a drastic effect on the park’s flora.

“My feeling is it’s not going to have that much of an effect. The temperature’s not going to be that low. The snow — we may not even get it this far west of the Pa. line,” he said.