RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Saturday declared a statewide state of emergency on Saturday after severe storms on Friday ripped through the region, leaving two-thirds of the state without power.
The Scioto County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) reported more than 200 downed trees, including more than a dozen landing on cars and homes. There were also three reported fires caused by power issues. Peak winds in Scioto County reached 74 miles per hour at 6:08 p.m. Friday.
According to AEP Ohio, 50 percent of Scioto County — 18,135 customers — were still without power at noon on Saturday. Overall, AEP reported more than 660,000 customers without power across their service territory. The company said they were in the early stages of damage assessment. At this point, it is expected that restoration will continue for at least 5-7 days, with the majority of customers to be restored in that time frame. This estimate could change if additional damaging weather passes through the service territory.
A cooling shelter has been established at the Shawnee State University gymnasium in Portsmouth. The shelter is operated by the American Red Cross, the Portsmouth City Health Department and the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency. Vistors are asked to enter through the back, next to the parking lot.
The Ohio Department of Transportation also announced several road closures in Pike, Brown, and Jackson counties due to downed power lines and debris. In addition, ODOT reported that many traffic signals were not in operation at many locations due to power outages. Signal electricians are responding to sites across the area; however, motorists are reminded to treat these intersections as four-way stops.
“I’m very concerned with the problems created by the combination of power outages and severe heat, and so I’ve declared an emergency for all of Ohio so that state resources and personnel can help local governments meet the needs and challenges that they face. Ohioans in affected areas should, if possible, stay tuned to their radios or TVs for information on where they can go for assistance. Those without power can call their local 211 numbers for information on where to turn for help. Folks should also knock on their neighbors’ doors to make sure they’re OK and look out for those who they know might need some extra help. Together we’ll get through this,” Gov. Kasich said.
Kasich has directed Ohio EMA Executive Director Nancy Dragani to open the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Columbus to coordinate state and local resources. The state has already been in contact with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials and will request federal assistance if it is needed.
Scioto County Health Commissioner Dr. Aaron Adams said much of Wheelersburg was without power on Saturday, including his own house. He borrowed a generator to keep some power going, and spent much of his day in the pool.
“Our power went off yesterday at about six o’clock; the same time everybody else did when that storm surged through Wheelersburg. We’ve been off all night and we’re still off. But there’s power at Pirate Drive and going down that way, but when you get to downtown Wheelersburg where Speedy Mart is, Stakers and the restaurants, they don’t have any. But you’ve got power at Ace Hardware and down there up Dogwood Ridge. The school’s got power and Riverbend has power, and the houses going down back there,” Adams said.
He said it’s important to stay cool and hydrated in severe heat. If the power outages have left you without access to air conditioning, Adams recommends you spend as much time as you can in the shade, in a pool or under the garden hose, and drinks lots of cold beverages to stay cool. It’s also important, he said, to remember your pets.
“Yesterday afternoon I think I hosed my dogs off twice, and they enjoyed it too. They didn’t fight me at all,” Adams said.
Greenup County, Ky., however, asked its customers to conserve water during the power outage.
The storm also knocked out power at the Portsmouth Daily Times printing facility, causing print operations to be temporarily relocated to Logan, W.Va. As a result, the Saturday newspaper was not available until Saturday afternoon.
Meteorologists are forecasting the possibility of additional severe weather with high wind of potentially 50-to 60 mph through Tuesday, and expect temperatures to remain in the mid-90s through the end of next week.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.