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Published: Saturday, 12/25/2004

Antwerp loses electricity, water


ANTWERP, Ohio - Cooking and baking for Christmas Day slowed to a crawl yesterday when electrical power shut down at 6 a.m., followed seven hours later by the loss of water pressure in this village of 1,740 residents.

Antwerp Police Chief George Clemens had a few theories for what prompted the Paulding County community to lose electricity: too many Christmas lights plugged in at once or "maybe the Grinch came down off the mountain."

Shelly DiMattio, spokesman for Columbus-based American Electric Power Co., had a more technical explanation for the outage that left about 1,000 customers without power on Christmas Eve.

"We had a problem inside the substation. A transformer failed, and it has affected the whole town of Antwerp," Ms. DiMattio said. "The transformer is not repairable."

Power was restored at 6 p.m. yesterday after AEP brought in a mobile transformer unit to the town about 85 miles southwest of Toledo.

The sudden loss of water pressure about 1:45 p.m. was caused by frozen waterlines, a situation that resulted from the loss of electrical service, said Luann Martin, village administrator. Water pressure was expected to be restored early today, but residents were advised to boil water until testing can be done early next week.

Without electricity or water, residents were encouraged to pack up and drive over to the school to get warm. Superintendent David Bagley was happy to open its doors to the public.

"When we built the building we kind of thought about situations like this," Mr. Bagley said. "We're set pretty well to offer this as a relief station for the community."

Opened last January, the $21 million school had electricity yesterday because it's connected to a different substation, he said. It also is equipped with an oversized generator capable of powering a portion of the K-12 school.

Although just a handful of residents had shown up at the makeshift shelter by afternoon, Mr. Bagley said it would remain open until the crisis had passed. American Red Cross workers brought food and other supplies to the school.

"Hopefully most people are taken care of by going to family and friends' houses around the area," he said. "We have another power company that surrounds our town so within a couple miles, you're somewhere with power."

Though it may be little consolation to Antwerp residents, Ms. DiMattio said they were lucky. The utility had some 350,000 customers in Ohio without power after this week's snow and ice storm. Many in portions of central and southern Ohio remained without power into the weekend. "In the greater scheme of things, your end of Ohio has fared better than the rest of the state," she said.

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