MANSFIELD — Power companies are working “dilligently” Tuesday to get electric back on for Richland County residents, according to local Emergency Management Agency Director Joseph Petrycki.

During a late-morning Zoom briefing with the media, Petrycki said the southern half of the county appeared to be the hardest hit by powerful thunderstorms and high winds that roared through north central Ohio on Tuesday night.

Petrycki said between 45 to 50 percent of county residents were still without power late Tuesday morning. There were more than 26,000 customers without power after the storm, according to power company websites.

He said there were numerous downed power lines and poles and also many roads blocked by storm debris.

“We had numerous power outages across the board from all of the companies that provide electric services in Richland County,” he said. “We have been in contact with all of the service providers and they are working diligently to get power back on due to the extreme heat we are facing.”

FirstEnergy spokeswoman Lauren Siburkis said early Tuesday afternoon that Richland and Ashland counties were the hardest hit in the company’s service area.

“As of now, we have 17,000 customers in Richland and Ashland counties still without power,” she said. “That’s down from about 50,000 impacted at the height of the storm.”

Siburkis said FirstEnergy has crews coming into the area from western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio to assist local workers.

“Our crews are working around the clock, 16-hour shifts,” she said.

She said Richland and Ashland counties sustained a lot of tree-related damage.

“We had hundreds of downed lines and broken poles,” she said. “Before the repair crews can access some of these places, a forestry crew must come in and remove the tree debris. That can be very time consuming.”

“This is one of those times where we can make all the proactive upgrades we want to our system (and still) these type of outages are out of our control.”

Timing of power restoration for all customers is “the million dollar question,” Siburkis said.

“We have set a maximum restoration time of Thursday evening when all customers will be up and running,” she said. “That is the worst-case scenario. Most will be restored before then.”

Siburkis said FirstEnergy meteorologists had tracked the storm for several days, allowing the company to have crews in place and also on standby in lesser-hit locales to join in the local response.

“We experienced minimal outages in all other parts of our service area,” she said. “Richland and Ashland were undoubtably the hardest hit.”

Petrycki said the Richland County EMA was getting help with damage assessment teams from Huron County and also a drone team from Sandusky County.

He said local hospitals “seem to be doing well,” as are nursing homes in the county.

He said there were no reported major injuries from the storm.

AEP Ohio reported it had 155,000 customers in its statewide service area at the height of the storm and still had 98,000 in need of restoration on Tuesday afternoon.

An AEP spokeswoman said crews are continuing to work and assess and that restoration times will be available on the company website Tuesday evening.

According to the AEP Ohio website early Tuesday afternoon, there were 13,724 customers without power in Knox County, 5,597 in Richland and 330 in Ashland.

Shelby crews working to restore power 

John Ensman, director of utilities for the city of Shelby, said the northern Richland County city had isolated power outages from the storm and that city crews worked throughout the night.

About 1,000 customers lost power, he said.

“The crews are still responding to calls this afternoon and will more than likely be working into the evening. Municipal electric crews from Clyde responded to a mutual aid request to help expedite our outage restoration,” Ensman said.

He said the city was working on a plan to help residents with storm clean-up.

“For now, we are asking residents to place tree limbs from the storm damage along the curb for future pick up or they can drop tree limbs off at the parking lot at the former middle school site on Park Avenue, across the street from the fire department and police station,” Ensman said.

(Engagement and Solutions Editor Brittany Schock contributed to this report).

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when...

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