Cleanup crawls along after Valley windstorm
Authorities are still tallying damages from the weekend’s wind- storm that felled hundreds of trees and downed electric wires, cutting power to tens of thousands in the Mahoning Valley.
Ironically, Ohio Severe Weather Awareness Week ended Saturday.
Ohio Edison said that it expects “to restore service to the majority of customers by 4 p.m. on Wednesday.”
Between the high number of power outages, storm damage and not being able to safely use bucket trucks to restore power when wind gusts hit at least 40 mph, because it poses a danger to workers, it is taking longer than usual to restore power.
“Though downed trees, localized flooding and road closures can slow progress, crews will continue to work around the clock to get customers back up and running,” an Ohio Edison statement to customers reads. “We know that any outage is inconvenient. We are committed to restoring power as quickly and as safely as possible.”
The high winds caused about 90,000 customers in the Mahoning Valley to lose power Saturday. Most of the customers have since had their power restored.
About 6,000 Ohio Edison customers in Trumbull County were without power as of Monday afternoon. There were about 4,000 customers in Mahoning County and about 1,600 in Columbiana County without power.
MAHONING COUNTY EMA
The Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday had just tested its new public alert and warning system, called IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert and Warning System). But it was not activated Saturday when high winds knocked out power to a large number of homes and businesses.
Andy Frost III, EMA director and Austintown fire chief, said IPAWS is activated automatically when the National Weather Service sends out a tornado warning for Mahoning County. It is the really loud warning that sounds like an Amber Alert, but there was no tornado warning Saturday — so no IPAWS alert.
But the system is not set up to alert for high winds like those on Saturday, he said.
Saturday’s high winds did damage and knocked out power to thousands, but because there were no low or dangerous temperatures involved, Frost did not activate an emergency operations center.
“I was in constant contact with (local officials and) the Red Cross and the state EMA just seeing what everybody was doing, what the potentials were, and we did not open anything because there were a lot of power outages, but it was very mild temperatures,” Frost said.
During the test activation of IPAWS on Wednesday, the system worked well. EMA used several cell phones to test whether the alerts were sent, and they were, Frost said.
“For the phones we set up, it reached all of the phones,” he said.
If a real tornado or natural disaster happens, “you do not have to subscribe to anything. You do not have to put your phone on. It will alert right to your phone,” Frost said of people within reach of cellphone towers in Mahoning County.
TRUMBULL COUNTY EMA
Trumbull County EMA Director John Hickey said his department has been working to assist local first responders throughout the storm and the aftermath. This included setting up a couple of warming centers in the county.
“We’re trying to help those who have been displaced,” Hickey said. “We are in constant contact with the Red Cross and are helping make those connections for those who need it.”
He also noted that EMA is in constant contact with the Ohio Department of Transportation, the county commissioners and local communities.
Warren Safety Service Director Eddie Colbert said city crews were summoned in emergency response to areas devastated by the extreme weather.
“We mobilized our operations, police, fire and water departments to clear roadways and block off streets,” Colbert stated on a social media post. “We have been in constant contact with Ohio Edison and Trumbull County EMA.”
Colbert stated that Ohio Edison has contracted with outside agencies to assist with restoring power, replacing utility poles and removing downed wires.
“Our operations department is working to remove trees that are blocking the roadways. Many of these trees are entangled in wires and will not be addressed until Ohio Edison can remove the wires.”
As of Monday, the following roads were closed as of 3 p.m. Monday and continue to be due to downed wires and or trees. Please avoid these areas and prepare to take alternate routes:
Closed are Jefferson Street between York Street and Nevada Avenue, Fourth Street between Highland Avebue and Tod Avenue, Draper Street between Ridge Road and Niles Road, Forrest Street at North Park and Atlantic Avenue, Northfield and Oakdale avenues, Freemont Avenue NE between Comstock Street and Griswold Street, and Glenwood Street NE
Niles has issued an emergency limb and branch collection due to the storm, according to a news release from Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz. Niles residents can schedule an emergency collection through Friday with the director of public service by calling 330-544-9000 extention 1103.
This pickup is only for residential properties, and those who schedule a pickup must place the limbs and branches in a neat pile with the cut and broken ends facing the street. The pile should be within 3 feet of the curb. To apply for this pickup, limbs and branches must be at least 4 feet long, but no longer than 8 feet and no larger than 6 inches in diameter.
Limbs and branches less than 4 feet with a diameter no larger than 3 inches should be bundled and disposed of during regular residential trash pickup.
The city will not dispose of roots, shrubs, vines, honeysuckle, firewood, boards or lumber, nor will it access private property with equipment and employees to dispose of limbs and branches.
Limbs and branches should not be placed near mailboxes, fire hydrants or parked cars.
Trumbull County Metroparks Director Zachary Svette said anyone using or going to any of the county’s Metroparks needs to use extreme caution.
“After the wind storm, we have multiple trees down in most parks, with Clarence Darrow (Champion) and the bike trail (countywide) with the majority of downed trees. We are working on getting them cleaned up as quickly and safely as we can. But it may take a week or more due to limited staffing and on- going weather events.” Svette said.
The power company is offering the following tips as work continues to restore power:
Stay away from any downed wires.
Investigate your surroundings before trying to clean up any debris. Limbs, leaves, and other objects moved by the wind could hide downed wires. Do not attempt to remove tree limbs or debris within 10 feet of a power line.
Check on family, friends and neighbors who are elderly, have small children or have a medical condition.
Notify your utility if you’re using a generator. This protects you and line workers as they work to restore power.
Never operate lanterns, heaters or fuel-fired stoves without proper ventilation.
Unplug major appliances to protect them when power is restored.
Refuel heaters, lamps and generators outside and away from any flames or sparks. Wipe spilled fuel immediately.
Never burn charcoal indoors — it releases poisonous carbon monoxide.