As Jack Frost prepares to make his wintry presence known in Portage County again, linemen and snowplow drivers wait to meet him head-on.
Friday's forecast is the polar opposite to Thursday’s 50s temperatures. According to the National Weather Service, an arctic front is going to bring strong winds, widespread snow and some ice across the Plains to the Upper Midwest and eastward through the Mississippi Valley, before heading across the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys through the East and into the open Atlantic by Saturday morning.
As precipitation will follow behind the front within the cold air, freezing rain and snow will be possible before spreading along the western edges of the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. The heaviest snow is expected in the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes/Ohio Valley/interior New England. Travel from the Midwest to the Northeast will be dangerous due to the snow and possible icy conditions, according to the National Weather Service.
"Obviously, we are monitoring the weather very closely", said Mark Durbin, spokesman for Ohio Edison, a FirstEnergy company. "We have two meteorologists on our staff here at FirstEnergy. They not only can tell us what the weather is but what the potential impacts will be on our various areas."
Durbin said it looks like Ohio and western Pennsylvania probably will bear the brunt of whatever storm comes through. "I guess there is still a little bit of uncertainty as far as how much ice, how much snow, that type of thing," he said. "But at least it gives us some idea of how to plan and make sure we have enough people scheduled."
In addition to watching the weather, FirstEnergy has been reviewing safety procedures with its equipment operators, Durbin said. Ice can create many problems, he said. It can cover limbs and cause them to come crashing down on power lines causing outages and forcing crews to respond to clear away the tree debris so linemen can fix the outage.
"That is assuming they can even access where the outages are, because if it is icy and snowy we find it very difficult to get our trucks to where the outages are," Durbin said, adding FirstEnergy crews are experienced and their trucks are heavy-duty, but sometimes that's not enough in a winter storm.
Durbin pointed out the power company's annual tree trimming program is key to being proactive and preventing as much as possible the loss of power and equipment due to downed tree limbs.
Residents are urged to report outages by calling FirstEnergy's toll free number 888-544-4877 (LIGHTSS) or go to the website www.firstenergycorp.com/reportoutage. Durbin said no one should assume their neighbor is going to call it in.
Everyone is also warned to stay clear of downed power lines and to report them ASAP to 888-544-4877 or 911. Durbin said anyone can log onto firstenergycorp.com and register for text message alerts. First Energy is also on Facebook and Twitter.
ODOT IS READY, WATING
Truck drivers for the Ohio Department of Transportation are going to begin working 12-hour shifts when the weather changes from rain to sleet on Friday, said ODOT's Brent Kovacs. "When we do that will be dictated by when the storm comes in," Kovacs said.
ODOT crews will continue work 12-hour shifts until the snow stops, Kovacs said. "Then we're going to continue to plow and make sure everything is good and safe and there's no threat of refreeze." He said because the forecast is calling for sleet first, crews are going to start by salting the roads and then when the snow comes they will start plowing.
Kovacs said there will likely be 14 to 16 trucks on the roads in Portage County, which is the average number out there during any given storm, he added.