Snow first, then bitter cold and wind

January 6, 2014 — By CHET BAUMGARTNER

Thousands of Bluffton residents lost power at about 8:55 a.m. Monday, the latest casualty of a reported 7.1 to 13 inches of snow that fell throughout the day Sunday.
Jon Oman, the city’s operations manager, attributed the outage to issues with AEP at the city’s north sub station.
Workers, however, are trying to use other sub stations to “share the load,” he said, and shortly after 10 a.m., power was restored to the filtration plant, with the wastewater plant soon to follow, Mayor Ted Ellis said.
Oman, though, said AEP can’t specify when workers will restore the power to the residents — essentially everywhere north of Ind. 124 and inside the city limits.
“They’re in a mess,” he said.
But the Bluffton Police/Fire building can shelter about 40 people, Bluffton Fire Chief Chris Broderick said.
Also, officials with the city and county, who met Monday morning to coordinate relief efforts, said they could use the Wells Community Boys and Girls Club, which has a kitchen and showers.
Pam Vanderkolk, the Bluffton Parks Department’s superintendent, will try to coordinate food preparation in case it is needed at the shelters later today.
“It could get interesting, folks,” Mayor Ted Ellis said.
The city’s snow emergency remains until at least 5 p.m., while the county’s remain in effect until at least 6 p.m.
They will meet again at noon, however, and Broderick recommended that the emergency be extended.
The winter weather also cut power to I&M customers Sunday night and Monday morning. United REMC reported no major outages in Wells County, and any other outages would have impacted 10 people or fewer.
As of 10:30 a.m. Monday, however, neither United REMC or I&M reported any outages.
Bluffton Police Chief Tammy Schaffer said residents without power should call the dispatch at 824-3320, which has a person at each line.
Still, she said callers should be brief: Give dispatchers their addresses, she said, but don’t ask about any time estimates.
They should also call for any life-threatening emergencies, and crews, with the assistance of the National Guard, will deliver oxygen to those who need it.
But the assembled officials Monday said they didn’t want anyone else but emergency crews on the road.
Wells County Sheriff Monte Fisher said many county roads are impassable due to the wind and drifting.
North-south roads, in particular, are a “losing battle,” he said.
One snow plow was stuck behind another three vehicles on County Road 100E, for instance, while others were abandoning their vehicles on Ind. 1 near Petroleum, he said.
Another motorist hit a hydrant at Western Avenue at the Decker Industrial Park.
City officials also reported a water main break at Parlor City Drive.
Before ending the meeting, officials arranged to place a Highway Department grader each near the Southern Wells schools and at Berne Apparel in Ossian overnight.
The county will also stage a truck in Bluffton.
Dave Robison, the city’s Street Department Commissioner, said his crews are keeping up.

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