Sunday, April 11, 1999

Utility crews, municipal workers out in force




BY BERNIE MIXON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[tornado]
A precarious load is salvaged from a home on Lakeland Drive in Montgomery.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        BLUE ASH — Tornado cleanup began with the loud, incessant drone of power saws Saturday.

        Snapped branches were piled at the ends of driveways and on roadsides to be hauled away by city service workers or chipped into mulch by tree companies slowly working their way through the area.

        Utility crews worked throughout the day to repair the damage caused by the Friday morning tornado that ripped through Blue Ash, Montgomery, Sycamore Township and Symmes Township.

        Cinergy crews spent the day taking down broken poles and replacing them with new ones, as well as stringing new wire. “We restored power to 600 customers today and hope to have another 600 restored by midnight tonight,” said Kathy Meinke, a spokeswoman for Cinergy. Nearly 200,000 Cinergy customers lost power during the Friday morning storm.

        By 10 p.m. Saturday, Cinergy officials said they expected to complete restoration efforts by midnight, about 18 hours ahead of schedule, according to Ms. Meinke. Another 1,500 buildings were so severely damaged that power could not be restored, she said.

        Cincinnati Bell reported fewer than 1,000 customers without phone service. Major problem areas continue to be at Kemper and Montgomery Roads, Millview Drive and Cornell Road.

        Blue Ash and Montgomery service workers were joined by workers from neighboring communities not touched by the storm. Blue Ash and Montgomery, known for their mature and majestic trees — Montgomery was named a Tree City USA in 1997 — needed help in sawing up the splintered remnants.

[tornado]
Steve Cole moves tree limbs from his Lakewater Drive home with the help of friends Emily Huie and Meghan Mahoney.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        “What we needed was manpower, saws, chippers, trucks, loaders; and they have supplied those to us,” said Dennis Albrinck, Blue Ash service director.

        It will take days to clear away all the fallen limbs and stumps from broken trees, Mr. Albrinck estimated.

        Davey Tree and Lawn Care of Mount Repose had crews working in Blue Ash and Montgomery to help its regular customers — and others — with the cleanup.

        “We did our customers first,” said Bob Vuotto, district manager for the company. “But we are helping others, too. It's hard to say no. We are scheduling people as we go.”

        On a normal Saturday, the company would have three to four crews working half the day. Post-tornado, eight crews were out in both Blue Ash and Montgomery. The company could have as many as eight crews back out on Monday, depending on the need.

        “We are waiting to see if we have to call in crews from around the country,” Mr. Vuotto said. “I've had managers call me from Louisville to Akron and Chicago saying if (we) need help to let them know.”

        Ruined homes may be rebuilt, but it will be many years before the trees in neighborhoods such as Fallsington Grant and Montgomery Woods recover.

        “In the areas where (the tornado) totally destroyed homes, it totally destroyed whole forests of trees,” Mr. Vuotto said. “In the areas that are severely damaged, it will take years to recuperate.”

        Cincinnati Bell said repair calls were back to normal.

        About 75 workers were making repairs Saturday. “Either there is buried cable or damaged cable,” said Libby Korosec, Cincinnati Bell spokeswoman.

        “In most cases we are waiting for poles to be replaced,” Ms. Korosec said early in the day. “We share poles with Cinergy, and they are putting up the poles.”

        Customers without phone service should call 566-1511.

       



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