OHIO VALLEY — About 40,000 customers in Gallia, Meigs and Mason counties are still without power, according to American Electric Power and Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative.
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, approximately 500,000 customer throughout the AEP Ohio service territory are without power with approximately 32,000 located in southeast Ohio and northern West Virginia.
“Restoration efforts are ongoing right now, and we expect they will continue up to five to seven days,” said AEP in an online statement. “The key drivers for restoration times are the extent of storm damage including the number of transmission and distribution circuits down and damage to pole and wires, number of resources available to work restoration and weather conditions during the restoration period.”
The current power statistics for AEP customers as of 5 p.m. are as follows:
Gallia County, Ohio — 8,867 or 89.3 percent of AEP Ohio customers do not currently have power.
Meigs County, Ohio — 10,019 or 88 percent of AEP Ohio customers are without power.
Mason County, West Virginia — 13,001 or 87.4 percent of AEP Allegheny customers are without power.
The rest of AEP’s media statement follows:
This is the worst storm we’ve had since we were hit by Hurricane Ike in 2008. At this point, our customer numbers and damage reports have us on track for this torem to be in proportion to Hurricane Ike. Wind speeds for this storm have been reported in the 80 to 85 mph range. Ike wind speeds were recorded in the 75 mph range. Restoration for the majority of the customers affected by Hurricane Ike was completed in about a week. We urge the public to be extremely cautious around downed lines. All downed lines should be considered energized. Keep children and pets away from lines and any item that could be energized by fallen lines such as metal fencing and yard items. Because of the extent of the outages, AEP Ohio asks that customers turn off all major appliances and air conditioning, leaving one light on to alert them their power is back on. This will also help prevent overloads that can cause the power to go off again. The weather forecast for the next few days is for very hot, humid conditions. Please check on your affected family members, especially the elderly, to make sure they remain safe.
Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative (BREC) is in the process of assessing damages across Gallia County. BREC serves approximately 14,000 households and estimated that 60-80 percent of those businesses and residences were without power as of Saturday morning.
“We have all our crews out and are pulling in help from outside the area to help,” said BREC Manager of Member Services Bryan Long.
Long said crews were en route from western Kentucky, and contracted workers are currently helping to clear trees from lines so that line crews can function more efficiently. Still, the severity of the damage in the area is proving to be a serious, slow and painstaking process.
“In all likelihood, it’s going to be a few days [before power is completely restored],” said Long. “Our crews are working as hard as they can, but the extent of the damage is so severe, we don’t always know what we’ll get until we get out there to assess.”
Long said 10 substations were down as of Saturday morning.
Shelters and cooling stations have been established across the tri-county area. In Gallia County, the Emergency Operations Center is operational and working to assess damages across the county, as well as provide information and services to the public until power is restored.
A cooling station was established at the Gallia County Senior Center, located on Ohio 160. It closed at 6 p.m. today and will reopen from 1-6 p.m. Sunday. The cooling station is not intended for medical emergency situations. Those with medical needs or longer term shelter needs can call (740) 446-3126 for assistance.
According to the Meigs County Emergency Management Agency, the Syracuse Community Center is serving as a shelter for those in need. A Middleport Methodist Church has fed people throughout the day Saturday, and Middleport-area restaurants have been staying open late to try to serve the community.
In Mason County, a shelter has been established at the Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School.
Several roads remain closed across the Ohio Valley due to downed trees and power lines.
Both the Gallia County Commissioners and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have declared a state of emergency. Storm-related property damage should be reported to (740) 441-2036.
Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning advises residents to be patient with crews and with personnel of local establishments who have been able to remain open during the disaster. Browning also asks that suspicious activity be reported to (740) 446-1221. Suspicious activity within Gallipolis City limits should be reported to (740) 446-1313.