COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It has been a busy month for AEP Ohio power restoration crews.
“They do get fatigued like anybody would, but they take their rest when they can get it and they’re ready to go. They’ve made their repairs from last week, the system’s back intact, and they’re ready to respond today,” said James Garret, a customer experience manager with AEP Ohio.
Thousands were left without power a week ago after strong winds tore across Ohio. Now, the threat of severe thunderstorms carrying strong winds is threatening early Saturday morning. This time around, the threat comes in the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness.
“It makes it a little bit harder to get around, obviously a little bit harder to see. You’re using flashlights and spotlights to diagnose trouble. But we will have crews working throughout the night, but a majority of our work force will be here at 6 or 7 a.m. so they can work their full 16-hour shift in, the most of it in the daylight, to get power restored,” Garrett said.
More than 2,000 workers will be ready to go on Saturday morning when the sun rises. About 600 of those workers have traveled in from out of state, Garrett said.
Garrett, who was a linesman in Kentucky when he began his career with AEP, knows what it takes to get people’s power back. There’s really no standard “fix” for downed lines and poles, he said.
“It really can vary, depending on the terrain. In Ohio we have some very rough terrain that requires track machines and special equipment to get to, so it can vary between a couple hours to sometimes 12 and 16 hours just for one pole,” he said.
The wet weather won’t make the job any easier — and trees are most often what cause issues.
“The saturated grounds, like we’re seeing today kind of make that a little bit worse. It’s a little bit easier for the trees to fall. But our crews will be out there making the repairs,” Garrett said.
The Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security office will be busy at work all night, too.
“Those nighttime storms are the most challenging, and somewhat the deadliest, because of the darkness and people are asleep or aren’t out and about and aware of the weather,” said Jeff Young, the Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security director.
Young will be at the helm Saturday morning as the storm rolls in, staying ahead of warnings and alerts. He recommends people have their phone alerts on overnight.
“It’s automatically active in your phones, unless you have turned it off,” Young said.
While tornado warnings usually get a stronger response from people, severe thunderstorms can be just as damaging and they also occur more often, he said.
“Straight line winds are a challenge, and they cause extensive damage. Particularly because we have to deal with straight line winds in the 50, 60, 70 mile-an-hour range and they will be or could be sustained over a longer period of time,” he said.
Young recommends being prepared before you close your eyes.
“Make sure that before you go to bed, your mobile devices, your methods to get communication and information, are fully charged. And then kind of give it a little bit of thought, what are you going to do if you get woken up suddenly at midnight, where are you going to go?” Young said.
He also said it’s a good idea to have a set of clothes ready and somewhere safe to get quickly.
“Getting lower in the building, getting away from glass, getting in that windowless interior room is the best protection you can have,” Young said.