Shoppers swamped local grocery stores on Monday night to prepare for the storm. (Times Bulletin/Kirk Dougal)
Shoppers swamped local grocery stores on Monday night to prepare for the storm. (Times Bulletin/Kirk Dougal)
Times Bulletin Staff reports

VAN WERT - AEP Ohio has issued an advisory warning that if the approaching storm is as severe as predicted, many customers may be out of power for extended periods of time. For that reason, they and other state agencies and officials are encouraging residents to prepare now in order to protect themselves.

-If there is a power outage in your area, report it to AEP Ohio at 800-277-2177.

-Never touch a downed wire. Always treat this situation as dangerous. Report this condition by phone or online as soon as possible.

-Prepare an emergency kit with flashlight(s), battery-powered lamp and fresh batteries; battery-powered radio or television; water for drinking and cooking; instructions for manually opening power-operated garage doors; and manual can opener.

-Do not open freezer doors. This will keep foods frozen longer. Minimize opening refrigerator doors as well.

-Disconnect (trip breaker in your electrical panel) major heating and cooling equipment circuits. Leave just one light switched "on" to let you know when power is restored. After power is restored, turn on appliances gradually. Electric utilities can have problems with what is called "cold load pick-up" following outages as customer demand surges when service is restored.

-If temperatures dip below freezing and the power outage is projected to last overnight or longer, consider moving to a shelter or in with friends or relatives who do have electricity.

-If you leave your house, protect your water pipes from freezing by turning the water off at the main shutoff valve and opening faucets to drain the water.

"There is nothing more damaging to our electric system than ice, because its weight brings down trees and power lines, and the freezing rain slows our ability to clean up the debris before replacing poles, transformers and wires," said Joe Hamrock, AEP Ohio president and chief operating officer. "The first question the on-line outage site (www.aepohio.com) asks is whether a downed wire or other safety hazard exists. AEP Ohio is concerned that customers take appropriate precautions around electrical equipment at all times, especially during service interruptions. Customers and other members of the public should never touch a fallen utility line. Always treat all fallen lines as energized."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich directed the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) on Monday to be prepared to monitor and assess the effects of the expected winter storm. The Ohio Emergency Management Agency and ODOT worked on Monday afternoon to notify all 88 counties in Ohio about the potential danger to their communities.

All 3,000 ODOT snowplow drivers around the state are currently scheduled to work 12-hour shifts during the length of the storm. ODOT District 1, which includes Allen, Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert and Wyandot counties, is on full alert.

"We have over 90 trucks across our eight-county district which will be put into service beginning tonight," said Kirk Slusher on Monday, the ODOT District 1 deputy director. ""Our crews will be out around the clock for the duration of the storm."