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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Many Ohioans face water, power woes

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

CLEVELAND - A power outage threw homes and businesses across northern Ohio into the dark yesterday, canceling flights, sending police officers to the streets to direct rush-hour traffic, and kick-starting generators in prisons and hospitals.

Ohio's sole operating nuclear power plant was shuttered, mass transit was halted, and phone service was interrupted.

“The good news is we are hearing reports of power being returned to some areas,” said Orest Holubec, Mr. Taft's press secretary.

As night fell, 1.5 million people in Cleveland faced a water crisis because there was no electricity to pump water from Lake Erie.

At 8:45 p.m., Mr. Taft declared a state of emergency in Cuyahoga County. The declaration allows the state to provide everything from generators to water to manpower to the Cleveland metropolitan area. By 10 p.m., at least three eastern suburbs were out of water and western suburbs had two to four hours of water left.

“We're fighting time here,” city water commissioner Julius Ciaccia said.

In northern Ohio, the power went out along a 145-mile stretch of the Lake Erie coastline, affecting hundreds of thousands of customers in every major city from Toledo to Ashtabula.

To the south, thousands more homes and businesses in Mansfield, Marion, Massillon, and Tiffin reported outages.

About 880,000 FirstEnergy Corp. customers still were without power at about 10 p.m. Those included 420,000 in Cleveland and its suburbs, and 280,000 in the Akron, Canton, Lorain, and Medina areas. FirstEnergy estimated restoring electricity to everyone could take several days.

Nancy Dragani, director of the state's Emergency Operations Center, said Toledo Express Airport never lost power. Detroit Metropolitan Airport diverted planes to Toledo, and passengers were bused to Detroit.

Hospitals lost power but continued to operate on backup generators. At University Hospitals in Cleveland, doctors and nurses worked through the 87-degree heat.

Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell urged residents to conserve water. She also said the city was enforcing a curfew from dusk to dawn for anyone 18 and younger.

In Akron, callers flooded police department phone lines seeking answers.

The Perry Nuclear Power Plant in northeast Ohio and other electricity plants on the power grid operated by FirstEnergy were shut down as a precaution. The state's other nuclear plant, Davis-Besse near Oak Harbor, already was shut down for repairs.



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