Blackout sends pd into crisis mode

COLUMBIANA – Shortly after 10 p.m. Monday city residents on the north side of town heard an explosion, and then the power went out.

A dispatcher at the police department was told by residents calling in that traffic lights at major intersections were not working. Without knowing exactly what was going on, the department kicked into crisis mode and notified the electric department which activated its emergency plan, Police Chief Tim Gladis said.

Shortly after, the electric crew was able to determine what residents had heard was the sound of an Ohio Edison line falling onto one of the city’s 2,400-volt lines near Edgewood Court.

The lines connecting sounded similar to a transformer exploding, electric department superintendent Doug Sturgeon said.

“When two different phases cross it will sound like an explosion. I’m sure that was from their line falling on ours,” he said.

He explained the connecting lines shorted out and took the city’s breaker offline, affecting roughly 244 customers served by the substation on the north side of the city.

“I don’t know what caused their line to fall but it just looked to me like it just came apart,” he said.

David Turner, Ohio Edison external affairs manager for Columbiana County, said the outage affected 842 of their customers in the Salem area.

Power was restored to 510 customers in an hour, with the remaining 334 restored another hour after that, he added.

The line fell when two spans of primary embraces came loose, he said.

Power was out to Columbiana electric customers until 12:40 a.m., and Sturgeon said it took longer to restore due to working with Ohio Edison.

Columbiana purchases its electric through American Municipal Power and is responsible for its distribution.

“When two utilities have to work together it sometimes takes a little bit of time. Safety is a big concern for us,” Sturgeon said.

The local crew isolated the section of line until Ohio Edison could put their primary line back in service, he added.

The accident did not damage the city’s line.

Gladis said when the calls began coming into the station, “We immediately notified the electric department superintendent who immediately went into his emergency plan and got his crew on scene. That happened within about three minutes. We had officers at major intersections where lights were out.”

So many calls were coming in that at one point an officer was called to return to the station to help the dispatcher handle the influx, he added.

Mayor Bryan Blakeman said he received several calls as well, although he did not immediately know what the problem was since his home at Firestone Farms was not affected.

Gladis said the department would have notified him had an emergency been declared, but that was not the case Monday.

“Last night we received no emergency calls for help,” he said, referring to residents who may call in due to being too cold or suffering from a medical problem.

“We have contingency plans in place for that at the local, county and even state level,” he said.

In the event that those types of calls did come in warming stations would have been set up.

Despite being without power during record setting low temperatures, residents survived the outage unscathed, he said.

“If it’s an emergency and you need help right away, or you’re having a medical problem … call 911. For any other problems call (the police department at) 330-482-9292,” he said.

Power outages typically don’t affect landline telephone service, however, if a resident does not have access to a phone they can stay informed by signing up for emergency text alerts through NIXLE, he added.

A link to NIXLE is available online at

According to the National Weather Service out of Cleveland, local temperatures Monday night exceeded the record set on March 3, 1984, which was two degrees.

Temperatures were 5 degrees below zero.