COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Since power went out in much of Columbus, State Rep. Dontavius Jarrells has been visiting the neighborhoods impacted.
“We had seniors who had to climb up flights of stairs in order to get to their apartments,” Jarrells said. “We had individuals who were on busses who were just traveling around in a loop because they wanted to be in somewhere cool, and they had an oxygen tank. So, when we’re thinking about the visceral realities that families faced navigating this issue, it’s not simply the power went off.”
Jarrells said this is the reason he and other lawmakers signed a letter to AEP Ohio’s president and chief operating officer. The letter asked several questions, including why customers were not notified ahead of the outages, and about actions to prevent them later.
“We got to have an honest conversation as to what happened,” Jarrells said. “I think that’s the first thing we have to do.”
AEP has said the outages were intentional and at the order of its regional overseer, PJM Interconnection, in order to protect the power grid. It also ruled out shifting the blackouts around to different customers as an option, because there weren’t enough working transmission lines after the storm.
“In this case, the affected transmission lines cannot be brought back online until other lines that feed into the area are repaired from storm damage and returned to service,” AEP Ohio wrote. “This eliminates the ability to rotate outages from one area to another.”
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio plans to conduct an after action report, which is something it does after every major outage. Still, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel called for a more transparent investigation where everyday Ohioans could be involved.
“We think this is maybe a bigger story than that,” said J.P Blackwell, a spokesperson for the OCC. “We’d like PUCO to bring in an independent investigator, you know, with experts to take a look, you know, at what happened, and to see what decisions were made. And to see if there could be lessons learned.”
If you had food go bad, lost wages at your job or had to stay in a hotel because of an extended outage, AEP does have options for filing a claim. Click here to learn more on how.