COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As much as one can prepare in advance for a major winter storm, Mother Nature sometimes has different ideas.
Wild wind gusts, ice, snow and sub-zero wind chill temperatures descended into the Columbus area Friday morning and should continue the onslaught throughout the day, potentially causing power outages stretching over multiple days.
American Electric Power of Ohio is preaching patience, especially during a holiday weekend where so many will be traveling and congregating together, perhaps in the dark. While central Ohio has fared somewhat well for outages, the company reported Friday afternoon that more than 13,000 of its customers lost power.
“Crews worked overnight on power outages, with fresh crews arriving this morning to continue assessing damage and when possible restoring power. Crews have made steady progress restoring power; however, ongoing winds continue to create new outages,” the company said in a release.
While the arctic blast isn’t expected to reach levels of storms past, the expected weather conditions could pose safety issues and restoration delays for crews working in hazardous driving conditions. Once wind gusts reach 30 miles per hour, AEP Ohio said it isn’t safe to raise the company’s bucket trucks in the air for service on power lines. At that point, crews will attempt to climb poles to do the necessary work, but that can delay the process and is very physically demanding in the cold.
NBC4 has live power outage trackers available below from four central Ohio electric companies:
For a fullscreen map of AEP outages, click here. Users can find their neighborhood or using a dropdown menu on the left side of the screen, view the map by county or zip code. As of 2 p.m., a little more than 1,000 customers throughout the Columbus metro area had lost power.
If a customer checks their location and sees an outage, they can click on the outage icon and a bar on the right-hand side of the screen will appear. This shows how many customers are affected by the outage, when the outage was reported, and an estimated time that power will be restored.
FirstEnergy/Ohio Edison customers in rural parts of north-central Ohio can click here for a fullscreen map. This map allows users to search by county. However, it does not present the information in map form. Instead, it opens an alphabetized list of counties it serves, and the number of customers affected by outages.
Customers can report an outage by clicking on the button in the map’s top right corner.
Union Rural Electric Cooperative
Union Rural Electric Cooperative, which predominantly serves electricity to the Marysville area, has only seen one customer without power as of 6:30 a.m. This outage map breaks down its service areas by ZIP code, rather than county.
URE also offers instructions on how to report an outage on the company’s website. Customers can report outages either by calling 937-642-1826 or online.
Southern Central Power Company
Ohio Southern Central power customers can find their outage map here. As of 10 a.m., the company reported at least 1,600 customers without power in its service area.
Serving mostly the south-central part of Ohio, the map also allows users to search by location or break down the outages by county by clicking the “County” button on the right side of the key on the left-hand side of the map.
The company has instructions on how customers can report a power outage on its website.
Storm preparations and aftermath
AEP, which is expecting approximately 1,800 lineworkers, contractors and support personnel to be ready for the storm, is urging its customers to be prepared, especially for those with medical needs that require power sources.
“With dangerously cold temperatures expected, we are continuing to stress the importance of preparedness for all customers in the event of power outages,” the company said in a Thursday release. “Due to the nature of the emergency restoration processes and expected weather conditions, AEP Ohio cannot assure priority restoration for life-support customers. We strongly urge you to have either a backup power source or an alternate plan in the event of a power outage.”
Once weather conditions are deemed safe and the storm has passed, AEP said assessing the damage could take 24-48 hours, especially in more rural areas where terrain and roads are more treacherous.