By BETTY LAWRENCE and SEAN RICE
Nearly 10,000 Mercer and Auglaize county residents remained without electrical power this morning in the wake of Wednesday's severe ice storm.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft has declared 14 Ohio counties as disaster areas, including Mercer and Auglaize. It is possible that some customers may not have electricity through the weekend yet.
Accumulating ice on power lines and trees has caused extensive damage to transformers and power poles. At approximately eight pounds per gallon, frozen water on electrical equipment and trees can add hundreds of pounds.
Utility companies have been working nonstop to restore power to homes and businesses.
According to Dayton Power & Light, 3,500 Mercer County customers and nearly 3,000 Auglaize customers still were without power Thursday afternoon. Midwest Electric, Inc. reported this morning that more than 3,000 of its customers in west central Ohio remained without power. "We had a total of 90,000 customers affected by the storm with 55,000 without power, primarily Mercer, Auglaize, Darke, Shelby and Logan counties," DP&L spokesperson Tom Tatham said.
In Celina, city officials estimate 300 homes are still without power this morning.
"It's not easy to estimate who is on, and who is off," Celina Safety-Service Director Jeff Hazel said
The nine-man line crew from Celina Utilities worked 34 hours straight, before getting a break late Thursday night.
A Celina man was injured when his van struck a downed power line and overturned on St. Anthony Road at 6:20 a.m. Thursday.
Gary J. Miller, 39, 5533 state Route 118, Celina, was taken by private vehicle and treated then released at Community Hospital, Coldwater, following the accident.
According to the Mercer County Sheriff's Office report Miller was eastbound in Butler Township when the van struck the power line, which was only four or five feet off the ground. The line reportedly came down with a fallen tree due to ice.
Compared to other surrounding towns, like St. Marys, New Bremen, Minster, Fort Recovery, Celina fared very well in the storm and following repair blitz, Hazel noted.
He attributed Celina's situation to $4 million in upgrades to the system completed last year and the ferocity of the line crew.
"We've got a great crew, I really have to hand it to them," Hazel said. "It's like a challenge, a mission for them. They hate to be beat by a storm."
Hazel said the entire city may have been back on line today, if it were not for lines continuing to break currently. Some areas have been repaired five or six times since Wednesday.
Hazel is pretty confident most lines in the city can be repaired by today. Mutual assistance crews from towns like Napoleon, Tipp City, Hamilton and Orrville are arriving today to help and will be working through the night tonight.
"Though, as long as the ice is on the lines, it going to cause breaks," he said.
Any damage to lines will be fixed by the city. Residences that have damaged meter bases outside are the responsibility of the homeowner.
DP&L crews have been working nonstop and will continue to work around the clock to restore power, Tatham said. Crews from neighboring utilities and states, including Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Virginia and Atlanta, Ga. are assisting line crews, as well as tree-trimming contractors.
The crews will be working throughout the weekend as well, Tatham added, offering no definite time frame as to when power will be restored to all customers.
"This is the worst ice storm some of those working here have ever seen," Tatham said.
Hazel said a special warning is needed for residents who are using gasoline generators to run appliances in their homes. He said no one should connect a generator to a wall outlet in their home, trying to give the entire house power. That action causes power to back-feed into the system. If a worker is nearby working on lines, the sudden power surge could kill.
"We ask people to be patient, it is a very specialized job," Hazel said.