Thursday, July 05, 2012

The end of storm cleanup is in sight

Times Bulletin News Writer

VAN WERT - After nearly a week of storm cleanup and electrical service restoration, it appears the finish line is on the horizon for many workers and volunteers.
The Van Wert County Emergency Management Agency announced that the American Red Cross emergency shelter, which had been set up at Van Wert Middle School, will be shut down Friday at 7 p.m.
The shelter has been a source of help to many people throughout the power outages which followed the storm On Tuesday, the Salvation Army fed 130 people at the shelter. In addition, 18 people were reported spending the day and night at facility. That number has continually decreased from the 64 people on day one. The American Red Cross is currently addressing the needs of people still at the shelter and making accommodations for them when the shelter closes.
Efforts to restore power to customers are also approaching conclusion. By Thursday evening, American Electric Power reported that 82 percent of its customers who lost electric service have now been restored. That still leaves 144,000 AEP Ohio customers in the dark, but the company has stated that 90-95 percent restoration will be complete by midnight Saturday. Of those still without electricity, AEP is reporting 305 still without power in the county with most of those in the Scott area.
Customer of Dayton Power & Light and Midwest Electric were all reported as restored on Thursday. Paulding-Putnam Electrical Cooperative members are slowly returning to service. As of Thursday, the co-op reported that 2,885 customers of the 13,000 members in Van Wert, Paulding, Putnam counties and the surrounding area were still without power.
One clean up area that is ramping up at this time is debris removal. ODOT Van Wert's facility superintendent Don Taylor noted that the state has seven employees assisting villages such as Convoy and Ohio City with debris removal.
"As long as it takes, we will be there," said Taylor in response to the clean up situation.
Van Wert County Engineer Kyle Wendel reported that he has three crews working to sweep debris off of county roads and will begin to sweep township roads along with the township trustees beginning next week.
Van Wert County Solid Waste Coordinator George Brake said that the City of Van Wert has been provided with a front loader for assistance in collecting and bringing brush debris to the center. The center is currently at 25 percent capacity, which Brake noted leaves plenty of room. Gates to the center are always open and everyone is working together to clear the area of debris.
At a Thursday meeting of agency heads from Van Wert County, Barb Hoffman of the Van Wert County Health Department confirmed that high-priority restaurants and businesses have been checked by the Health Department.
Van Wert County EMA Director Rick McCoy said, "There have been rumors circulating that FEMA might be coming to pass out financial assistance and free generators to the Van Wert area... This is not the case, but disaster assessment will be done across Ohio to determine if the costs involved meet federal criteria to be eligible for aid to local government and individual assistance."
McCoy revealed that once cleanup and assessment is concluded, the goal is to rethink current plans that are already in place of how to notify the public of weather information. Last Friday's storm not only disabled television, radio, and newspapers, but also left NOAA Weather Radio transmitters on the ground.
Straight line winds during the storm have been reported at 87 mph in Scott, but no tornadoes are being confirmed. Gustnadoes on the other hand were reported by many and were confused as tornadoes. Unlike tornadoes, gustnadoes form from the ground up and do not dig into the ground. McCoy remarked that this atmosphere that produced this storm will not just go away and future storms should be watched very closely.
"The current system is very fragile," McCoy noted, and the weather system we saw has not downsized the drought."
With this heat any storms that develop will only bring hail and wind, not the large amounts of rainfall that is seen in the spring months. AEP is still very concerned with keeping power maintained during the heatwave that will be continuing throughout the summer months.

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