Saturday, August 12, 2000

Power return goes slowly

By Mara H. Gottfried
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        By 10 p.m. Friday, more than 48 hours after severe thunderstorms left 90,000 Tristate residents without electricity, 50 homes were still in the dark.

        At 8 a.m. Friday, 2,000 homes had no power. That figure dropped to 600 by 5 p.m.

        Power was expected to be restored to all homes by midnight Friday.

        Cinergy officials originally said power would be back by noon Friday, but unforeseen work extended that prediction. Downed trees and widespread outages after Wednesday night's storms were the crux of the problem.

        “Additional problems were called in that we weren't even aware of,” said Kathy Meinke, Cinergy spokeswoman. “We're finding problems we can't get in to fix until we cut trees out.”

        Frustrated homeowners said they did not understand the delay. For most, using candles and flashlights was an inconvenience. But for one Indian Hill man, the problem was more troublesome.

        Dr. John Wulsin, who uses a wheelchair and has an electric chair lift, was unable to reach the second level of his home. He slept on a couch in his living room for two nights.

        “I'm upset and a little annoyed because I thought they (Cinergy) said the power would be back on at 12 o'clock,” said the 80-year-old man, whose power was restored at 5:15 p.m. Friday.

        Areas without power early Friday included Indian Hill, Mount Washington, Anderson Township, Newtown, Symmes Township and Brown and Clermont counties.

        The last time the Tristate saw such a widespread outage was in October 1989, after a snowstorm, Ms. Meinke said.

        More than 200 Cinergy workers, making up 122 crews, were in the field during the day. Cinergy borrowed workers from its districts in Indiana to accommodate the workload. During the evening, 80 crews were working.

        For those without power, increased crews were no consolation. Glenn Zimmerman, 42, took matters into his own hands Friday.

        At 11:30 a.m., he drove a mile from his Withamsville home to where a Cinergy crew was working. He persuaded them to restore the power in his neighborhood. They did, but Mr. Zimmerman was incensed, power or no power.

        “We waited so many hours for a 10-minute job,” he said. “I'm absolutely angry. I'm out about $300 in food that spoiled in my refrigerator and freezer. We had to skip my daughter's 18th birthday party (Thursday) because we couldn't make food.”

        Living without power was a lesson in creative adjustments for some families.

        “My health club membership has never been more beneficial,” said Ann Xanders, who went with her husband to their Blue Ash health club to shower and dress for work.

        Wednesday night's storm brought hail as big as golf balls in some areas, numerous lightning strikes and heavy rain — as much as 5 inches.

        The National Weather Service confirmed Friday that a tornado touched down Wednesday in Wheelersburg, Scioto County, about 125 miles southeast of Cincinnati.


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