Cold cuts power

WEATHERSFIELD – Officials in the township and in the city of Girard were ready to implement an emergency plan to move residents to emergency locations if a power outage that knocked out electric service in the township had sustained for more than a few hours Monday night.

“We had spoken to Tom Telego, the emergency manager in Niles, about moving residents to the Mayor Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center if the power had remained off much longer,” Weathersfield Administrator David Rouan said. “We estimate between 3,000 and 4,000 residents were affected by the power outage.”

Power went out in the Oakville Hilltop area about 7 p.m. Monday and later went out in other areas, including the township’s administration building, he said. The administration building’s backup generator kicked on.

Power began returning in the community at about 10:30 p.m.

“We received calls from people who were on oxygen and when the power went out, their machines went down,” Rouan said. “The fire department went to homes and took tanks to them.”

At the height of the power outage, there were about 9,700 customers in Mahoning and about 1,500 customers in Trumbull County who did not have power, according to Ohio Edison. Causes included transformers that exploded, downed power lines and the surge of electric use by customers attempting to keep warm as temperatures dipped to a Jan. 6 record low of -12 degrees for the area.

Telego said that Weathersfield and Girard evacuated residents, it would have been the first time the wellness center would have been used as a staging area because of cold weather.

“We’ve used it several times over the years because of floods,” he said.

Girard Mayor James Melfi said that between a quarter and a third of the city was affected by the power blackout, including the city’s gymnasium, where officials typically would have housed people while the power was out.

“We contacted the superintendent of schools and the principal of the high school to see if we could move people in them,” Melfi said. “We decided to wait until midnight before beginning an evacuation.”

In the meantime, the city contacted Trumbull Emergency Management Association’s Linda Biel to operate the emergency shelter if they moved people to the high school.

“We wanted to wait as long as possible before taking this step, because we were concerned that having people move to the high school might be dangerous for some residents,” Melfi said. “It was extremely cold and we were concerned that some residents may have been injured as they moved.”

“We were going to implement the emergency plan at midnight,” Melfi said. “Fortunately, at 11:57 p.m., power began coming on across the city, so we did not have to do it.”

Electric power was restored to the majority of Ohio Edison customers Monday evening, according to spokesman David Turner.

“We worked quickly to get power back on,” Turner said. “We worked with area EMAs and the Red Cross to make sure affected customers had places to go while their power were out.”

The Girard Multi-Generational Center, which was closed for all programs on Tuesday, opened for anyone who had no power and needed a place to go for heat, coffee and food.

Jude Signoriello, center director, said that around 8 p.m. Monday, many residents south of Trumbull Avenue in the Parkwood area were without power and some were still effected on Tuesday morning.

”We decided while all the programs were canceled to open the center to anyone who had no power and needed a place to go,” Signoriello said.

She said the Salvation Army in Warren also brought food and water in a truck to the center and also to the two nearby mobile home parks – Hillcrest and Paul’s Trailer, off Trumbull Avenue – which were without electricity.

Signoriello said she was also aware of power being out on sections of Davis, Dearborn and Second streets.

”It seemed to be the roads south of Trumbull Avenue,” she said.

The Warren Salvation Army was open Tuesday to anyone who needed a coat or something to eat. Hundreds of coats, hats, gloves, scarves and blankets were distributed there on Monday, and more were picked up Tuesday. Food was also available.

Chuck McCorkle, a building manager with Warren Family Mission, said Tuesday brought two more area residents to the mission seeking a warm place to stay, bringing the total there to approximately 38 people.

“We are still receiving calls from people who are interested in staying,” McCorkle said.

Cheryl Parsons, a spokeswoman with the mission, said that representatives of Berk Enterprises and a local dentist office brought in new coats to the mission Tuesday morning.

“We’ve received more than 300 coats since Friday,” Parsons said. “We’ve been amazed with the generosity of area residents and organizations. What we’ve received has been very needed. We’ve had people – adults and children – coming in wearing little more than light jackets and sweaters. We’ve been able to give heavier coats.”

Dr. Jim Nichols of St. Joseph Health Center in Warren, described the weather as some the coldest he has experienced.

“It is possible to get frost nip and frostbite even with taking normal precautions of wearing hats and gloves if people are out in this extreme weather for too long,” he said. “It is not a good idea for people to be out for too long.”

Nichols does not recommend parents allow their children to go outside during extremely cold weather.

“If parents allow their children to go outside to play in this weather, they should only be outside in five- to 10-minute periods,” he said. “But I would not recommend it at all. It is brutal. Just keep them inside.”

General numbness of the skin, tingling and when tissue feels hard are early indicators of frostbite, Nichols said.

“At this stage, go inside to a warm area,” he said. “Do not rub the area because that can cause additional damage. Allow the area to warm slowly.”

Nichols said if the affected area has a warm, burning feeling and there is a lack of sensation, seek medical assistance immediately because irreversible damage could taking place.

Tina Creighton, a spokeswoman with Humility of Mary Health Systems, which includes St. Joseph, said the majority of the hospitals in Trumbull and Mahoning counties did not have any people come in with cold-related health symptoms. There were two people who went to one of its Austintown health facilities.

Trish Hrina, a spokeswoman with the ValleyCare hospitals of Trumbull Memorial, Hillside and Northside hospitals, said that as of Tuesday afternoon, there were only one minor case of frostbite at Northside and a minor cold-related injury at Trumbull Memorial Hospital.