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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Region summons power to cope

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

“We were forced out of our office because we couldn't produce any work,” he said, perched on a bar stool at Mickey Finn's pub. “We got into traffic and realized that wasn't a very good alternative, so we were forced to come and drink beer.”

Not everyone turned the power outage into an early happy hour. Many people working downtown took to the streets in their cars, causing gridlocked traffic for about 40 minutes as vehicles poured out of the city shortly before rush hour.

Jane Gates carefully walked across busy downtown intersections in her blue jumpsuit, trying to safely reach her cleaning job at Fifth Third Bank.

“There's no traffic lights. We could get killed!” she yelled as a young man in a tan car blaring hip-hop music stopped and waved her across the road.

Traffic also was stalled in the suburbs. Frustrated drivers moved at a crawl along the Maumee-Perrysburg bridge. A few, angered by the delays, got out of their cars and peered down the road, searching for the cause of the holdup.

While many were stuck on the roadways, a few got trapped in elevators.

City employee Jim Stvartak spent more than two hours in an elevator at Government Center before he was freed at 6:30 p.m.

“Do I get overtime for this,” he joked to his boss, development director Steve Seaton.

Mr. Stvartak, a chief general inspector, was one of two people stuck in the Government Center elevators. The other was a woman trapped on the eighth floor who was freed about the same time.

One person got stuck in an elevator for about 25 minutes at the Owens-Illinois building, according to security personnel, but workers were able to manually open the elevator and the person got out safely.

Next door at the Wyndham Hotel, it looked like Halloween, as staff handed out glow sticks so guests could light their electricity-deficient rooms.

As air conditioning and electric fans stalled in the hotel and around the area, stuffy indoor temperatures drove many residents outdoors, where the balmy temperatures felt cool by comparison.

In the North End, residents sat on front porches three hours after the power went out waiting for their electricity to be restored. A dozen residents of Vistula Heritage Apartments at Erie and Locust streets were passing around cold drinks and getting ready to hold a barbecue.

“We're going to make this a party,” Marquetta Brooks said. “As long as everyone is OK, everybody is safe, and as long as we have ice and drinks, we'll be OK.”

At Mickey Finn's, about a dozen drinkers were relaxing like it was any other evening. Neon green signs on the walls ironically advertised “Power Hour,” as patrons shared news of outages around the country gleaned from cell phone conversations and radio snippets.

Mr. Schmerely offered one complaint about the situation.

“I just wish Carty [Finkbeiner] was still our mayor,” he said. “He would have been out directing traffic.”

Staff writers Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss, Tom Troy, and Tahree Lane contributed to this report.



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