Township, county and utility company deal with aftermath of storms

by Laura Bednar

Thunderstorms and high winds swept through Northeast Ohio at the end of March and early April, leaving many without power for days. As of mid-April, crews were still cleaning up from the severe weather.

Bath Township uses Ohio Edison for electricity, a company under the umbrella of FirstEnergy. According to FirstEnergy’s website, Ohio Edison serves over 1 million customers in northeast and north central Ohio.

Lauren Siburkis, supervisor for FirstEnergy’s state and regulatory communications, said during the first storm on March 24, approximately 640,000 customers lost power and 3,000 employees from FirstEnergy’s 10 electric companies and corporate offices, along with over 1,500 outside contractors, worked around the clock until service was restored.

“The recent, back-to-back storms caused significant tree damage across our Ohio service area, which resulted in widespread outages,” she said.

The storm on April 1 left 450,000 customers in the dark across the Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia territories. Almost 3,000 FirstEnergy employees and contractors again worked around the clock on restoration efforts, according to Siburkis.

During these lengthy outages, FirstEnergy provided water and ice to customers without power.

The company’s initial goal is clearing hazards like downed power lines, fallen trees and equipment blocking the road to allow for crews to access and repair outages.

Siburkis said, “Our crews follow a formal restoration process after a major storm, during which they typically address outages that restore the largest number of customers before moving to more isolated problems.”

Township Administrator and Police Chief Vito Sinopoli said the Summit County Engineer clears and cuts fallen trees on a county road, or uses a subcontractor. However, if the tree is on a wire, it is left to the utility company to clear, as they have the proper equipment to work among downed wires.

Sinopoli said the same is true with township roads. The township or one of its subcontractors will cut and remove trees in the roadways, but trees in a right-of-way or on a line become the utility company’s responsibility.

He added, “Trees that have fallen on private property that may have impacted utilities are generally beyond the scope of county or township authority.”

As of April 13, Sinopoli said he received notification of trees in the right-of-ways on Everett, Ira, Granger, Yellow Creek and Cleveland-Massillon roads. He said the trees were in areas with a high concentration of woods.

The utility company sends a crew out every three years for “circuit to sky” tree trimming, cutting branches above and below wires to prevent damage during a storm.

Siburkis said FirstEnergy customers can subscribe to text and email notifications from the company and use two-way texting to report outages and request updates on restoration efforts. There is also a real-time outage map on the company website. More information can be found at ∞