Whipping winds and rain brought down trees and wreaked havoc Monday in Lorain County.
Winds snapped power lines and trees that fell on cars, houses and across streets. No major injuries or deaths were reported late Monday.
“Man, I’ve never been out on a night like this,” a police officer remarked in a radio transmission.
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The downed lines left thousands without electricity. By 11:30 p.m. Monday, about 13,100 Ohio Edison customers in Lorain, nearly 5,900 in Avon Lake, 1,070 in Elyria and about 400 in Avon were in the dark. Gary Mortus, an Ohio Edison spokesman, said 18 crews of two and three people would be working throughout the night to restore electricity. Tom Kelley, Lorain County Emergency Management Agency director, said emergency shelters will likely open if outages continue for more than six to 12 hours.
Outages at Lorain’s water plant led to the plant operating on an emergency generator. Customers are being asked to conserve water usage.
Damage Monday included a large tree that fell on a car in the 33000 block of Walker Road in Avon Lake around 3:50 pm., briefly trapping the driver, who escaped serious injury, according to fire Lt. Chris Huerner. The mishap was par for the course, Huerner said.
He said his department had responded to multiple calls of blown transformers, trees on houses and wires down around the city.
“The whole city’s going to shambles,” he said, jokingly. “There are no major fires or major injuries, just a lot of trees and a lot of lines down.”
County school districts canceled classes today.
“We didn’t want to take a chance on any child getting hurt,” Vermilion Superintendent Phil Pempin said. “We decided to err on the side of caution.”
Besides worrying about getting children to school safely, school officials were concerned about possible electrical outages at schools.
“It creates all kinds of problems,” Elyria Superintendent Paul Rigda said. “If we move the kids, they get soaked.”
The National Weather Service predicted waves of 16 to 22 feet on Lake Erie and it issued a Lake Shore Flood Warning, said Meteorologist Kristen Yeager.
“We’re expecting a 3-foot water rise as well as large waves,” Yeager said.
Kelley said the computer model heights for waves shown during a Monday conference briefing with the weather service were “unprecedented” for the area. Kelley warned that buildings on Lake Erie, including Lorain City Hall, could be a structural risk, leading Mayor Chase Ritenauer to close City Hall except to most city workers. Lorain Municipal Court and Lorain’s beaches are also closed.
“It’s getting pretty crazy,” Ritenauer said. “Even though we’re not on the coast, there’s still a danger.”
The winds coming off the lake and hitting Lorain City Hall’s north side present the potential for breakage, damage and harm to personnel. Ritenauer said his seventh-floor office is among the areas where water “is running in or dripping in.”
Lorain City Auditor Ron Mantini said Monday the closing was the first since he began working at City Hall in 2000. “The wind’s really nasty down here and it’s only going to get worse,” he said.
High winds have also led to a ban on triple tractor trailers and double tractor trailers on the Ohio Turnpike that began at 5 p.m. Monday and lasts until 10 a.m. today. Also banned are double tractor trailers 90 feet or longer as well as campers and mobile homes.
Elyria also is taking precautions. Gates to all entrances of Cascade Park and Elywood Park have been shut, according to Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda. She said the city is securing the nature center in Cascade, which has flooded before in severe storms.
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Black River until further notice.
Brinda said the prediction is the Black River will rise to 14.5 feet, which is 3 feet above the riverbank. At the close of work Monday, the Black River was at 9.5 feet, Brinda said.
Flooding begins at 11 feet in low-lying areas near the Black River, and Ford Road may be closed for high water, according to the National Weather Service.
Lorain County has a high wind warning until 4 p.m. today with sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph and gusts up to 65 mph.
“Those 65 mph gusts will be near Lake Erie,” Yeager said.
She said docked boats and boat houses could sustain damage. Throughout the area, people should secure loose items such as lawn furniture or put it inside.
By 6:30 p.m. Monday, 1.21 inches of rain had fallen and 1.5 to 3 inches was expected today, with the possibility some spots could see 4 inches or more, Yeager said.
No snow is expected locally, but there are blizzard warnings for parts of West Virginia and Virginia, which could see accumulation of 12 to 20 inches, Yeager said.
The Elyria Police Department sent out a command for no time off, so all hands are on deck, Brinda said. Police officers topped off the tanks of their cruisers so they wouldn’t have to stop for gas during the night, said Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely. Brinda said the Elyria Fire Department is in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the county’s Emergency Management Agency for water rescues.
Elyria’s tree service is on call for curblawn trees that come down, Brinda said. Trees that land on power lines are the responsibility of Ohio Edison and people should call 911, she said.
Residents should make sure they have three days’ worth of prescription drugs, food, bottled water, flash lights, battery- powered radios and blankets, Brinda said.
She also suggested that residents continue to help clear catch basins and make sure they are free of leaves so water can drain from the streets.
Reporter Evan Goodenow contributed to this story. Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or email@example.com.