August 29, 2014

Elyria
Intermittent clouds
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Utility crews put it all on the line to restore power

ELYRIA — After nearly eight-and-a-half hours working in heavy rain and wind Tuesday, the Ohio Edison lineman in the bucket truck was fed up with drivers driving around the orange barrels and over power lines at Lake and Warden avenues.

“Turn around!” he screamed at a woman in a minivan. “You kept going! It’s your fault! Idiots!”

The three-person crew was one of up to 18 crews working in Elyria and around the county to restore electricity. By 5:30 p.m., the crew had removed a fallen tree, but was still working to erect a new utility pole, according to crew foreman Ricky Thomas.

More photos below.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this bad,” said Thomas, an Ohio Edison employee since 1974, of the effect of Hurricane Sandy on the area.

Robert Mitchell watched the crew work outside his house at 1727 Lake Ave. Like many of his neighbors, Mitchell lost electricity early Tuesday.

“When the wind hit that pole, I never seen anything quite like it,” Mitchell said of the explosion that knocked out power. “It was the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’m 80 years old.”

Down the block from Mitchell, a 2-foot-thick, approximately 20-foot-tall tree lay on top of the roof in the front yard of the house at 617 Lake Ave. Tenants Jose Correa and Meaghan Shattuck said the wind was so loud at the height of the storm that they never heard the tree hit the roof. They said they lost electricity around 11 p.m.

Mark Durbin, a spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp., the parent company of Ohio Edison, said crews like the one on Lake Avenue work 16-hour shifts. The company hopes to have all electricity restored by Friday morning at the latest.

Durbin said about 200 linemen from Ohio were sent to restore electricity in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but the company has enough people to restore power locally. He said crews from Missouri may briefly work in Ohio on their way to Pennsylvania and New Jersey to maximize resources. Durbin said he understands how frustrated customers may question sending workers out of state.

“People are going to say what they are going to say,” he said. “We think it didn’t impact the restoration process at all having the crews over there.”

Rather than a lack of personnel, Durbin said high winds — wind gusts were as high as 63 mph in Lorain County at the peak of the storm — slowed restoration because linemen couldn’t go up in bucket trucks. “It’s just a safety issue,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

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