For power crews, storm meant ‘all hands on deck’

For power crews, storm meant ‘all hands on deck’
Dave Mast

As the days rolled by following the Jun 4 storm that knocked out power throughout Holmes County, electric crews worked overtime night and day to get people back on the grid. Four days after the storm, much of the county began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


Scant moments after the two storms that crushed Holmes County in the early hour morning of Tuesday, June 14, local businesses and organizations jumped into action to attempt to restore power to homes and businesses that rely on power that is often taken for granted every day.

For many area businesses, the loss of income during the following 72 hours was immeasurable. The streets of Berlin and Millersburg, usually jammed with tourists exploring the many shops and eateries during the summer busy season, were nearly dormant, with numerous businesses without power.

Homes sat silent, while others hummed with the ongoing drone of a generator that supplied electric to a refrigerator or freezer, or maybe the water pump. To top it all off, people had to deal with the agonizing heat of a 95-degree scorcher for the next two days, making life seem unbearable.

That was why such great importance was placed on finding the safest and most expedient way possible to restore electric to each pocket hit hard by the vicious storms.

Crews from Holmes-Wayne Electric Cooperative and American Electric Power swarmed Holmes County, the county hit hardest by the storms.

Glenn Miller, president of HWEC, sat with many of the heads of county departments Thursday, June 16 in the Old Jail meeting room and described the efforts of his people to do whatever necessary to restore power.

“I truly appreciate the community’s support,” Miller said of the graciousness, patience and understanding of the communities and people who were devastated by the storms. “We always talk about the ice storm being the one that would never be duplicated. I think this one probably will be.”

Miller said that during the 2004 ice storm that coated the entire county in a blanket of ice and knocked out power to homes and businesses for many days, there was approximately $1.3 million in restoration expenses, along with another $3.7 million in permanent damages.

He said HWEC had 85 tree trimmers and 115 linemen working hard since June 14 to clear paths and restore power to downed lines that were felled by trees, as well as the high winds that reached close to 100 miles-per-hour.

“It’s been challenging,” Miller said of the restoration efforts that dragged on throughout thew week and counting. “But our small company and the community has pulled together.”

Miller said his crews were met with gracious people offering food, meals and water.

He said Rodhe’s IGA opened its doors and allowed his company to make sandwiches, and Miller and his CEO hit the road to deliver the meals.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Miller said. “We have a great group of people in here. We have five crews from Kentucky, four from Pennsylvania and the rest are contract crews from Toledo.

“All said and done we have 25 additional crews plus our guys. Our parking lot looks big when it is empty. You couldn’t walk through it. It’s been a real community effort, getting help from hotels (to house visiting crews) to food, and it’s very heart-warming to see how great our community really is. We welcome any assistance to our members because this is going to be very expensive.”

Asked by commissioner chairman Joe Miller if this would affect the rates for patrons of HWEC, Miller said he couldn’t answer for certain, but said the company is sound, having a strong year, at least until the storms hit.

“That would be the board’s decision, but I certainly hope not to raise rates,” Miller said.

Holmes County engineer Chris Young, who also serves on the HWEC board, said the company has been incredible in its efforts and praised Miller for his leadership.

Holmes County treasurer Jackie McKee, also on the HWEC board, reiterated that, noting that the community effort was inspiring, yet not altogether unusual in Holmes County.

“It’s always a community effort, always community first,” McKee said. It’s people helping people.”

Commissioner Ray Eyler, a long-time employee for HWEC who is now retired, said one thing about the company is that regardless of what happens, they remain very much like a family. Thus, in trying times, they pull together and focus on the job at hand because their family lives, works, attend church and recreates alongside the people of Holmes County, so they know how important their role is in restoring some semblance of normalcy as quickly as possible.

“They come together, no matter where they are, to help each other and others,” Eyler said. “I can go back to the 1969 flood, and the cooperation we had from the entire community then was the same. We just appreciate them.”

Holmes County commissioner Dave Hall spoke on behalf of the commissioners, and said it was inspiring to see so many respond with compassion and determination.

“On behalf of the residents from this county, we are so grateful for the heroic task that was performed,” said Hall. “Your task is difficult, and your mission is extremely uncomfortable with weather conditions that are unbearable.

“After we recover, I would like to see this county board proclaim a day in Holmes history to recognize these individuals and many volunteers who were there for the people of Holmes County. Hopefully an organization or festival can honor our first responders, line crews, county, township and village workers and also the volunteer organizations that helped us tremendously with a parade.”

Much like HWEC, the following days after the storms saw countless AEP trucks tackling tough jobs across the county. AEP brought in crews from surrounding states and as far away as Texas to restore power to homes and businesses as quickly as possible.

Hall said seeing them respond to the devastation when they recognized how hard the county was hit was humbling.

“These crews are out there working together for people they don’t know, and along my travels throughout the county, they have all expressed how grateful they are to the people of Holmes County for being so gracious and understanding,” Hall said. “It isn’t that way everywhere.”

As pockets of power began to be restored, life began to seep back to normal for many, and having power to cook, shower or cool the course was an uplifting moment as people continued to struggle with getting pack to life as they knew it.

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