Dalton, OH - Widespread power outage cripples businesses and causes traffic problems

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A widespread power outage crippled businesses and caused traffic problems in Dalton and a large swath of the surrounding area beginning around noon Monday.

The outage, caused by a blown transformer and affected an estimated 1,336 customers, drew repair crews from Ohio Edison in Massillon and FirstEnergy in Akron. Power was restored about 8:35 p.m.

Perishable foods were a major concern and those hardest hit by the outage included service stations, grocery stores and ice cream shops.

Streets around town were deserted as many businesses closed up shop for the day.

Bergs IGA closed its doors after 2:30 p.m., covering meat and keeping cooler doors tightly closed should minimize the loss, manager Garry Scheufler said.

Across the street, Fuel Mart was one of the few businesses remaining open throughout.

Gasoline pumps were down and employee Jan Stokes took the stores ice cream to her home freezer until power could be restored.

Fuel Mart, which employees said lost thousands of dollars because of the outage, remained open at the request of its owners.

"We have no choice," Stokes said. "Weve been told that we have to stay open."

Because computers were down, employees resorted to writing transactions out on paper.

"Its made things extremely difficult," Stokes added.

Dalton Dariette Drive-In also closed early.

Meanwhile, a few of the businesses in the center of town remained open during the outage including Block N Barrel which sells ice, meats and ice cream.

Charlene Jones, manager of the store, said she had all the ice cream at the store shippedout during the early hours of the outage.

"Weve had quite a few people wanting lunch meat but Im not letting them open the doors (to coolers)," said Jones.

Her hope was for the power to be restored before the meat spoiled.

Down the street, other merchants affected by the outage kept their doors open.

"Its just killed business," said Annette Chirdon, owner of Gifts From the Heart. "Ive only had a dozen customers since the outage."

Although some of her flowers are stored in coolers, Chirdon said her flowers probably would be unharmed.

Another business, Don Smith Auto Parts, also kept its doors open throughout the ordeal.

"It makes you start thinking again," said Matt Ungashick, an employee at the store who had to hand-write transactions because computers were down.

"Luckily, there are no hospitals affected," said Randy Doyle, an Ohio Edison employee on the scene Monday.

One of the areas largest electric consumers, Shady Lawn Health Care Community, was not affected by the outage. It is serviced by Orrville Municipal Power, according to an employee at the facility.

The village waste water treatment plant switched to an on-site generator, said Street Superintendent Curt Denning.

Village residents also had water, thanks to a tractor powering the pump at the village well site.

Dalton Police and Fire officials both reported no serious incidents from the outage.

Police, though, had their hands full directing the heavy traffic through the intersection of U.S. 30 and Ohio 94. They finally were able to use a generator to power the traffic signal.

In addition, the villages Road Department erected stop signs at other intersections where traffic signals were not functioning to ensure a safe traffic flow.

Finally, a mobile replacement for the blown transformer was sent from Akron to the power station located at the corner of Ohio 94 and Church Road.

"At this time, we dont know what caused (the failure)," said Doyle, who added there was no evidence of a lightning strike and that an "internal failure" might be the cause.

The outage affected an area that included the village of Dalton along with its neighbors on all sides. Some of the electrical load was transferred to other power substations to reduce the impact of the outage.

According Bob Zickefoose of FirstEnergy in Akron, crews pulled the blown transformer so it could be shipped off-site for repairs. Meanwhile, the mobile unit will serve the area until the malfunctioned transformer is fixed.

"It happens every so often," Zickefoose said of the blown transformer. "The mobile unit will replace the old one for now."

"This is very unusual," Doyle said. "We wont know the reason for a day or two."


-- Doris (reaper1@mindspring.com), June 27, 2000

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