Friday, August 11, 2000

Storm left a big mess

Power still out to thousands of homes, businesses

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A maple tree fell in Jack Voss's front yard in Mount Washington.
(Gary Landers photos)
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        Power to all of Greater Cincinnati was expected to be restored by noon today, as Cinergy crews — increased fivefold — continued Thursday to work on lines damaged by a series of severe thunderstorms.

        The day's warm breezes and blue skies served as an unlikely backdrop to the cleanup effort, punctuated by the sight of downed tree limbs and the sound of chain saws.

        About 22,000 homes and businesses remained without power for at least a part of the day, including 18,000 in Ohio, Cinergy spokeswoman Kathy Meinke said. Hard-hit areas included Batavia, Anderson Township, Indian Hill and Fort Thomas.

        “That tree fell five minutes ago,” Susan Laubenthal said at about 1 p.m. Thursday, pointing to a tree that blocked the westbound lane of Keller Road near her Sycamore Township home, close to the Indian Hill border.

Electrical equipment once attached to this pole swing in the breeze.
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        The tree had been weakened by Wednesday night's storms, in which lightning lit up the Tristate for several hours.

        “It was pretty significant — approximately 40,000 strikes for the 24-hour period,” National Weather Service meteorologist Myron Padgett said Thursday. “It was pretty continuous.”

        At the storms' peak at 8:15 p.m., 90,000 Cinergy customers were without power, Ms. Meinke said.

        Cinergy had 112 crews in the field Thursday, having borrowed workers from its districts in Indiana. On a normal day, Cinergy would have about 20 crews doing various repairs to lines.

        “You see there, the wind blew that tree against the pole, tore down the primary (wire),” John Hiatt, an Indiana-based Cinergy field supervisor, said as his crew repaired a transformer on Fox Cub Lane in Indian Hill.

        The line, which normally carries 7,200 volts to the transformer, was “de-energized” so repairs could be done. Cinergy worker Rex Cochran, in a cherry picker, carefully lifted heavy branches away from the transformer.

        In a Madeira back yard on Miami Avenue, landscaping crew leader Jeff Smith of Prime Cut put down his chain saw for a moment, but others could be heard nearby.

        “That whole tree's gotta go,” he said. “It was split right down the middle. I'd say this area is the hardest hit.”

        Three spans of power lines were downed on Keller Road near Given Road in Indian Hill, and in several corners of Anderson Township.

        When the storms hit, Jerry and Barb Shively of Delhi Township were having dinner at Pompilio's restaurant in Newport, celebrating Mrs. Shively's 54th birthday.

        “I said, "Geez, the way the winds blowin', that tree's gonna be on the house,'” Mr. Shively said of the next-door neighbor's 75-foot-high linden tree.

        “When we got home, I said, "Oh no, it is on the house!'” he recalled Thursday. No one was home at the time. The top half of the tree, which fell, will be removed today.

        In Northern Kentucky, the storm appeared to hit the tree-lined streets of Fort Thomas the hardest. The community, which sits on top of a hill along the Ohio River, had many trees and limbs down, Campbell County dispatch reported.

        No serious injuries or major damage were reported. By Thursday morning, power to the area had been restored. And by afternoon, limbs were cleared from the street.

        Phone calls flooded Anderson Township road department offices, where secretary Gloria Thompson maintained her sense of humor.

        Asked how her day was going, she responded with a laugh, “Just dandy,” then recounted some of the questions residents have called with.

        “They're asking us when the power's coming back on, things like that,” she said. “Two people called asking when Halloween's gonna be. That was probably the strangest one.”

        Jim Hannah contributed to this story.


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