THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
TIFFIN -- Utility crews today worked to repair fallen power lines across northwest Ohio in the wake of severe thunderstorms Wednesday afternoon, while Seneca County commissioners declared a state of emergency because of the severe damage there and flood warnings were continued for several area rivers.
The National Weather Service in Cleveland said experts had been sent to the area to assess damage and determine whether any tornadoes touched down. The agency confirmed late Wednesday that a weak tornado touched down as the same area of storms passed through nearby Ashland County.
As of 8 a.m., Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative had restored power to 3,064 of the 3,278 customers who lost service during the storms. Bill Barnhart, vice president of engineering and operations, said remaining affected customers were expected to have their power restored by 8 p.m. today.
Falling trees and branches caused power failures in six of 10 counties served by HWEC, with most outages concentrated in Hancock, Sandusky, and Wood counties, the utility said. For more information, visit the Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative Web site at www.hwe.coop or call 800-445-4840.
FirstEnergy said its crews were working to restore power to about 40,000 customers who remain without service in the utility's service areas in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
More than 200,000 FirstEnergy utility customers were affected by severe weather, including about 7,000 Toledo Edison customers, the utility said. As of 10:45 a.m., four customers remained without power in the Toledo area, according to the utility's power outage map at http://outages.firstenergycorp.com/oh.html.
As of 9 a.m. today, AEP Ohio had restored service to more than 67,000 of the approximately 152,000 customers left without power statewide Wednesday, the utility said. It estimated wind gusts of up to 80 mph.
U.S. 20 remained closed in Bellevue because of fallen poles and wires, the Ohio Department of Transportation reported.
In Williams County, the Norfolk Southern Railroad main line between Toledo and Chicago reopened overnight at the scene of a train derailment between Bryan and Edgerton that authorities blamed on wind. Ten railcars carrying freight containers stacked two high were blown off the rails, affecting 30 container-loads of freight.
Cleanup also continued at the scene of a second train derailment in Seneca County involving overturned empty coal cars on a train that was stopped when the storms blew through.
The National Weather Service extended stream flood warnings in five northwest Ohio counties until early afternoon and also had flood warnings posted for several area rivers.
Moderate flooding was occurring at gauges on the Blanchard River in Findlay, the Huron River in Milan, and the Sandusky River in Tiffin, while minor flooding was reported or expected on the Portage River at Woodville and the Sandusky River at Tiffin. U.S. 224 was closed south of Tiffin because of high water.
The weather service said the Sandusky River would crest late today, while the Blanchard was expected to recede to its banks in the evening and the Portage flood was forecast to end by Friday morning.
Rainfall reports from the storms Wednesday included 2.24 inches at Fostoria; 2.18 inches at Tiffin; 1.62 inches at Bellevue, and 1.29 inches at Findlay. At Toledo Express Airport, just four tenths of an inch was recorded.