President Obama Declares State of Emergency in Ohio

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Coshocton County Rt. 83, 6/29/12. (Photo courtesy: Mark Schlabach)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Governor John Kasich has declared a state of emergency in Ohio and asked President Obama for Federal Disaster Assistance after severe storms caused damage and massive power outages on Friday night.

The President officially declared an emergency in the state Sunday, ordering that in addition to local and state aid, federal aid will be issued as well. The order authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate storm relief efforts.

“I shared my concerns with the President that we have a serious situation and will need extra federal help. Massive power outages combined with severe heat create dangerous conditions, especially for the elderly and those with medical needs. The state has been working closely with local emergency management officials to meet immediate needs and going forward we need to make sure we have every available asset to protect Ohioans,” said Kasich.

 State officials say severe storms and high winds knocked out power for approximately one million power company customers across two-thirds of the state.

“I’m very concerned with the problems created by the combination of power outages and severe heat, and so I’ve declared an emergency for all of Ohio so that state resources and personnel can help local governments meet the needs and challenges that they face,” said Governor Kasich.

“Ohioans in affected areas should, if possible, stay tuned to their radios or TVs for information on where they can go for assistance. Those without power can call their local 211 numbers for information on where to turn for help. Folks should also knock on their neighbors’ doors to make sure they’re ok and look out for those who they know might need some extra help. Together we’ll get through this,” said Kasich.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Saturday that it was working closely with states affected by Friday’s severe weather. Additionally, a liaison officer was deployed to the Ohio state emergency operations center to support response efforts as needed.

Kasich said he requested the federal aid so that Ohio could begin receiving badly needed generators and water from the government.

Meanwhile, FirstEnergy Corp. on Saturday said high winds, lightning and downed trees disrupted service to more than 560,000 customers in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The company vowed to work around the clock to restore power.

The state has also opened an emergency operations center in Columbus to help coordinate the response.

“We are bringing in additional linemen, damage assessors, hazard responders,
vehicles and supplies to help speed the restoration process,” said Steven E. Strah, vice
president, Distribution Support, FirstEnergy Utilities. “We are working day and night to
repair the damage left by this storm event as quickly and safely as possible.”

According to CNN, millions of people across nine states, including Ohio, were left without power Saturday to deal with thermostat-popping temperatures after a fierce line of thunderstorms and high winds pounded parts of the Midwest and Atlantic Seaboard. At least 10 people were killed and three states — Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio — declared states of emergency.

As of Sunday, FirstEnergy Utilities has restored service to 314,000 of 566,000 Ohio customers affected by the storms.

The storms moved east from Indiana through Ohio and into West Virginia and the nation’s capital, according to utility companies. In all, nearly 4 million homes were left without power; 1 million in Virginia alone.

The aftermath of the storm was compounded Saturday by a forecast of another sweltering summer day and relief is nowhere in sight as the extreme heat is expected to continue through the weekend.

“Heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke are a real threat,” said a spokesperson for the National Weather Service.  “This is especially true because of the longevity of this heat wave and the effects of extreme heat are cumulative.”

The weather service posted excessive heat warnings for 12 states, from Nebraska to New Jersey, with watches and advisories posted for at least six other states.

— reporter Lindsay Buckingham and CNN’s Moni Basu, Fabi Rodriguez, Nick Valencia, Melissa Abbey and Jake Carpenter contributed to this report.

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