After an early Wednesday evening storm downed powerlines and trees, leaving thousands of Highland County residents without power and other services, agencies and organizations across the county began cleanup and repairs. Local officials and power providers spoke with The Times-Gazette about cleanup efforts, damage assessments, and power restorations.
According to meteorologist John Franks from the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office, on Thursday a meteorologist surveyed damage caused by the storm. Though meteorologists won’t be able to determine whether damage in Highland County was caused by a tornado until field meteorologists compile the data, Franks said the meteorologist surveying in Highland County reported widespread damage.
A public information statement from the National Weather Service stated that “severe thunderstorms caused widespread damage across a majority of the Ohio Valley… Much of this damage appears to be a result of straight-line winds; however, it’s possible that a few brief tornadoes may have occurred. At this time, we plan to conduct surveys across Clinton, Highland, Pickaway and Ross counties in Ohio.”
Greenfield had a “tremendous amount of trees down,” city manager Todd Wilkin told The Times-Gazette, though there was no major damage to public or private property.
In the Greenfield Cemetery, a large tree fell, breaking a bench. Wilkin said he spoke with Jay Hardy, the owner of Hardy Memorials, on Thursday about the bench.
Village employees, a crew from the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District, and volunteers from South Salem-based Rescue 101 Search and Rescue worked until around 11 p.m. to clear streets in Greenfield.
“They were just volunteers saying, ‘Hey, I’m here to help,’ and that’s what I love about Greenfield,” Wilkin said.
Though streets were closed during cleanup, Wilkin said there were no streets closed on Thursday.
In Hillsboro, a tree fell, blocking North High Street near Rite Aid on Wednesday, and another tree nearby fell through a home’s front pane glass window, but crews were able to push the North Hightree and many of the other trees that fell during the storm back to the yards they came from, Hillsboro Public Works Superintendent Shawn Adkins told The Times-Gazette.
Adkins said the storm also damaged a light pole, several lights, and a traffic light near the hospital, but crews were able to fix the pole and lights, and he expected the traffic light repair to be finished on Thursday as well.
On Thursday, Buford Bardwell Road near Mount Orab and Grande Road near New Market were closed after trees fell on powerlines, Highland County Engineer Chris Fauber said.
“They’re still currently closed, but I’ve been told crews are heading there today from each individual power company involved,” Fauber said Thursday afternoon. “We have to wait until they get the electric moved before we can do anything.
“We had crews out until about 1:30 a.m. last night cleaning roadways to make sure we had trees off the road. Today, we’ve had a couple crews going around and cleaning up what we pushed off the road to get them opened up.”
Winds also flipped an older mobile home upside down on East Danville Road, Highland County Emergency Management Agency Director Dave Bushelman said. The home was not in use.
After a quick assessment of storm damage on Wednesday night, Bushelman said he saw about 30 homes with damage.
At around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, 80,000 AEP customers in the service territory — which includes Chillicothe, Hillsboro, Portsmouth, Seaman, South Point East, South Point West, and Wellston — were without power, an AEP spokesperson said. By Thursday morning, 40,000 customers’ power had been restored.
By 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, there were still 35,000 customers without power. In Hillsboro alone, that meant 1,200 households or businesses were without power.
As of Thursday afternoon, 3,000 AEP personnel were working to restore power.
According to the spokesperson, AEP expects to restore power to all Hillsboro customers by 11 p.m. on Friday.
The spokesperson recommended that AEP customers who are “app people” download the AEP mobile app, which customers can use to report outages; the app also notifies customers when there are outages in their area. Outage maps are also available at www.aepohio.com/outages/OutageStatus.aspx.
According to DP&L’s live outage map, three Highland County residents were without power at press time. The outage map listed the estimated restoration time as 9:30 p.m. on Thursday. DP&L did not immediately return a call seeking more information.
At around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, an outage off of Sicily Road near Mount Orab left 100 customers without power.
A Duke Energy spokesperson told The Times-Gazette that their system had experienced extensive damage and required complicated repairs, some of which involved temporarily removing fencing.
The spokesperson said they hoped to have all customers restored by 7 p.m. on Thursday.
South Central Power
Around 1,900 Highland County residents lost power after high winds caused trees and limbs to fall, which brought down powerlines and sometimes broke poles, a spokesperson for South Central Power told The Times-Gazette.
As of Thursday, about 180 Highland County customers were still without power.
The spokesperson added that crews would be practicing social distancing to avoid spreading COVID-19.
Customers can report power outages by calling 800-282-5064.
A Spectrum spokesperson told The Times-Gazette that there are pockets of customers in Highland County who currently don’t have service, but Spectrum crews are working to correct the issue.
“What’s going on for the most part in the Highland County and Hillsboro area are more related to power outages, and that doesn’t always make sense to a customer. They may say, ‘I have power, why don’t I have video or internet?’ but down the line, there could be a power outage that impacts our electronics,” the spokesperson said. “What we do in those cases, if the power is out, we get out there as fast as we can and put up temporary power, which is usually generators. There certainly are some areas where wind knocked down trees or things like that, but we don’t even know where those are until the power is restored. We know the service isn’t working, and we’ll know there is a power issue, so we’ll assume that’s what it is. All of the sudden, the power is restored, and there’s still an issue — that way we know the network has been impacted somehow.”
For customers who may not have service, both now and in the future, the spokesperson recommended calling Spectrum customer service to ensure the company is aware of the outage.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.