WHEELING - Despite wind and storm warnings that had power and emergency officials scrambling to prepare for the worst Thursday, most of the Upper Ohio Valley saw little damage as a result of early evening storms that moved through the region.
More than 11,000 customers of American Electric Power in the local area experienced power outages as a result of high winds that brought down scattered trees and power lines. AEP reported 4,077 customers were without power in Ohio County late Thursday; 1,397 in Marshall County; 1,220 in Belmont County; and 4,952 in Jefferson County.
Ohio County Emergency Management Director Lou Vargo said AEP was investigating power outages in the Woodsdale section of Wheeling and in the Wolf Estates area of Bethelehem at press time. He said no other major problems had been reported in Ohio County, although he thought conditions could be much worse due to the severe weather forecast.
The situation was similar in Marshall County, where Office of Emergency Management Director Tom Hart said no major damage was reported. He cited trees downed, gusty winds and heavy downpours as the only reports received.
And in Belmont County, EMA Director Dave Ivan said trees and power lines were down in various locations. He noted a structure fire had been reported on Glencoe-Warnock Road, but the seriousness of the blaze was unclear at press time.
"It was nothing like what we had a week ago," Ivan said of Thursday's storms. "I think we dodged a bullet this time."
Carmen Prati-Miller, spokeswoman for AEP, said there was little the electric company could do before the storms to make certain residents wouldn't lose power. She said the company can only have workers and resources ready to respond when needed.
AEP officials spent much of Thursday on "storm deterrence conference calls," according to Prati-Miller.
"You can't respond until you see what happens," she said. "There is just not a lot of work you can do except have everyone on standby and adjust resources where needed. People should take upon themselves to be prepared if they believe they could have extended power outages."
Prati-Miller suggested everyone should have a "storm preparedness kit" within their home. This kit should contain batteries and some form of communication through which the homeowner can access media updates.
Having bottled water and non-perishable food items on hand also is advisable, she continued.
"It's also not a bad idea to have a cooler on hand to put food in if you could go for a long period of time without power," Prati-Miller said.
If they do lose electricity, customers also should take precautions and unplug major appliances, she noted. This will help avoid power surges when electrical service returns.
"If you have an electric range, make sure to turn it off," Prati-Miller said. "Clothes washers and televisions - disconnect them as well."
City Editor Jennifer Compston-Strough contributed to this report.