EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was written in response to a reader-submitted question through Open Source, a platform where readers can ask Richland Source’s newsroom to investigate a question.
It’s the primary question still on the minds and tongues of thousands of north central Ohio residents on Wednesday morning: When will my power be back on?
A great question. It deserves a great answer. Sadly, we don’t have a great one. The truth of the matter is … it depends.
Let’s start with what we do know. A pair of nasty thunderstorms roared through the area late Monday night, packing winds in the 65 to 70 mile per hour range.
We all knew it was coming. Heck, we even warned you Monday morning.
“Severe thunderstorms are possible with the usual accompanying damaging wind gusts, some perhaps significant. The chance of precipitation is 70 percent, according to the NWS.”
Trust us, we take no pleasure from the National Weather Service getting this one right.
Those winds knocked down power lines and poles all over the place. They also uprooted trees and ripped off limbs, many of which flew into power lines, increasing the lack-of-power pain many still feel today.
In terms of widespread, weather-related power outages, this one is probably comparable to the 2005 ice storm.
The early morning quiet was replaced by the sounds of generators (for those lucky enough to have them) and chain saws as residents did battle in their own yards.
When we woke up Tuesday morning, FirstEnergy and AEP reported a total of 60,000 customers without power in Richland, Ashland, Crawford and Knox counties.
The situation has improved as of Wednesday morning. The two companies report a total of 33,548 customers without electricity, nearly half of what it was 24 hours earlier.
That doesn’t make life any better for those still struggling, especially with temps expected to reach back into the 90s today and heat indexes topping 100. Who knew air conditioning and even ceiling fans were so essential to life?
We know crews are working to fix the lines, replace the poles and get the juice turned back on.
But when will your power be back on? Again, it depends.
FirstEnergy has said its “worst-case scenario” has all of its customers back on by Thursday night. Most will be on before then, the company said.
It appears AEP is not as optimistic, saying Friday at midnight is its best calculation.
Both companies have crews working around the clock, completing 16-hour shifts to clear the trees and debris and fix the lines.
So how do power companies handle these wide-spread outages after big storms?
The first step is assessment. Crews must figure out what’s damaged where and report that information to a planning team, which can then prioritize repairs. A plan of attack must be developed.
Next, power companies must repair any damaged power plans and substations. If a power source isn’t working, it’s impossible to know what’s not working downrange.
The third step is repairing power needs for critical areas like hospitals, life support centers, fire stations, and police stations. Critical installations such as hospitals and nursing homes see main line repairs off of the transmission lines first.
The next step is customer restoration.
According to the website protoolreviews.com, “Contrary to popular belief, wealthy areas do not get back up the quickest. It’s all about moving from the major power arteries to minor capillaries.
“Much of this works in a similar way to how blood flows in our bodies. The closer you are to transmission lines, the more quickly you’re likely to see power restoration.”
There are exceptions to the rule. At this step, power companies also prioritize restoring power to the greatest number of people possible — as quickly as possible.
For example, a line or two that will restore power to 1,500 people will be fixed before a line that powers on 50 people. It’s frustrating to those at the end of the line, but it does make sense.
According to protoolreviews.com, “Only at this point do the small pocket and isolated areas get the repairs they need. In some cases, these include repairs to a single home connection, reducing the number of customers getting back online to very small figures.”
The best news is there were no serious injuries during the storms.
The good news is we are all in this together in today’s modern world. We are all so accustomed to flipping a switch and getting everything we need that when that is disrupted, it seems like the end of the world.
It’s really not.
In a few days, all the power will be back on. And we can all get back to complaining about something else.
(Author’s note: I am an AEP customer in Washington Township. My power went out late Monday night and remains out, likely until Friday night. I feel your pain.)