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FOREST — Storms packing winds reportedly up to 80 mph plowed through Hardin County late Friday afternoon leaving fallen limbs, trees and power lines in their wake.
As a result, many Hardin County residents found themselves without electrical power for several hours.
As of Friday night, more than 500,000 AEP Ohio customers were without power, according to Shelly Haugh, of AEP Ohio Corporate Communications.
The hardest hit areas are in central Ohio, where nearly 300,000 customers are without power. Those figures included more than 14,000 in northern Hancock County and nearly 19,000 in western Allen County.
It could take as many as seven days, said Haugh, before some of AEP customers see their service restored. The restoration efforts hinge on the amount of damages, weather and the numbers of workers available, she continued.
Mid-Ohio Energy’s Mark Terrill said about 100-150 customers were without service Friday night and most of those were expected to be restored before Saturday morning.
But no local community suffered as much damage as Forest. The village looked like a war zone Friday evening as residents joined village workers to clear an estimated 100 fallen trees from the streets. Village officials have been told some parts of Forest will be without electricity until Monday.
Mayor Tom Seem declared Forest to be in a state of emergency and is asking traffic through the town be limited to emergency personnel only Friday evening.
“We have had some injuries, but no fatalities, thank God,” said the mayor.
He is also turning to the rest of the county for assistance in clearing the debris from the street and park.
“We hope to get some help,” said Seem.
The mayor said he is hoping village and county residents come together in clearing the village. Seem said the first priority for the village will be clearing the streets and alleys so power can be restored.
“We don’t know the extent of the damages,” said Seem. “We need to assess how many power lines are down. The park is going to take some major work to clean.”
The town has contracted with two companies to help village workers with the tree removal, he continued.
“The trees left are too much for our backhoe to handle,” the mayor said. “The contractors will cut the trees into more manageable pieces.”
The timing couldn’t be worse for the village as it is in the final days of preparation for the Tree Town Festival next weekend. The town had hired a contractor to sweep the town’s streets Friday prior to the storm and village workers had Gormley Park trimmed and ready for the festival guests.
That changed quickly Friday. Gormley Park alone had at least 14 trees covering playground equipment and laying in the park’s pond.
Crews hope to have a better idea today what they are facing with just a week to go before the festival.
“It’s hard to say about the festival,” said Seem. “We hope to have a better idea Sunday. We will do the best we can and work hard. This has been a major blow to us, but we will do this like you would eat an elephant – one bite at a time.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer