Thousands of Ohioans await power restoration

Jul 5, 2012

More than half a million Ohio homes and businesses have had their electric service restored in the wake of last Friday's windstorm, but that leaves about 131,000 still without power this afternoon. That's the word from Ohio's largest electric company, American Electric Power. Ohio Public Radio's Bill Cohen talked with some folks who are now in their seventh day without electricity.

MT: This has been our salvation, having the library.


Maureen Thomas, her son, their two computers and their two cell phones have all taken refuge in the Columbus Library branch in the neighborhood of Clintonville. While the electronic gadgets are getting recharged and getting used, Thomas reflects on how much the food that went bad in her refrigerator and freezer was worth.


MT: I’d say at least $500 probably. And I actually called my insurance company and they said that it’s subject to my deductible and I have like a $1000 deductible.


Also getting recharged in the library and doing work she cannot do at her unplugged home is Katherine Ernie.

KE: We had power for two hours last night. It came on and then it went back off with the storm after the fireworks. It went back off.


BC: So close!


KE: It was heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking.


BC: What have you done with your food?


KE: We’ve thrown out a lot. Actually, I’ve cooked up what things were thawing and then we did Meals on Wheels, I went up and down the street and gave it away to people to didn’t have any. Because I have a gas stove. So I gave food away to people who couldn’t cook.

The outage may have brought out the best in human nature, but in some cases though it has also apparently brought out the worst. Ernie tells what happened just a few blocks down the street, where electric cables were down.


KE: The guy from AEP told us that the cable that was down, somebody stole it. So they had to replace cable.


Mickey Welch came to Columbus from California on Sunday after the power outage had begun. He’s staying in a Clintonville house with his partner Lou, who’s opening an art exhibit at OSU. Turns out the place they’ve been given has been out of power since last Friday.


MW: The experience of living in a house without electricity, at first it’s kind of exciting, it’s kind of pioneering. And then gradually it erodes, to the point where it’s just horrible. Because I’ll say “Oh, I’m so miserable I’ll just go get a cold drink. Oh! No cold! And I was going to have to dye my hair. Dying my hair in a dark bathroom, you know? The little things just add up.


The executives from AEP say the utility is doing its best with the goal of getting almost everybody’s power restored by late Saturday night. Pablo Vegas is Chief Operating Officer. He says the company has almost five thousand repair workers from out-of-state supplementing AEP’s own crews.


PV: We brought them in from as far away as Connecticut, Florida, Texas, Canada--we have a lot Alabama power crews that are in the Newark area right now--Minnesota. So from all over the region we have brought in available crews.


Full restoration cannot come too soon for customers like Yutan Getzler. His house is still unplugged, while folks across the street now have electricity.


YG: When everyone on the street has their power out there’s a real sense of solidarity, and then when one side has it back there’s a lot of resentment.