By Sue Botos
As power gradually returned to darkened area neighborhoods, the clean-up continued after last week’s storm. Although at one point 6,000 Rocky River residents and business owners were left without electricity, some for more than three days, city officials report that people pulled together to weather the crisis.
“We were very busy trying to maintain some semblance of order,” said police Chief Kelly Stillman, “This is the worst storm I have seen in my years as a policeman,” he added. Stillman said that while patrols were stepped up, especially in areas without power, there were no outstanding incidents.
In a statement to the community, police asked residents to call the station (440-331-1234) with the nearest address of any still- downed wires. The information would then be sent to the Illuminating Company. “For whatever reason, people call the police when the power is down. But people have been very cordial,” he added.
In an alert issued Monday, police and city officials asked anyone still without power to contact the police department and provide name, address and the confirmation number provided by CEI.
Stillman said that the NIXLE communication system, rolled out earlier this year, was put to the test during the storm crisis and proved to work well, keeping residents able to power up computers or mobile devices, informed of news such as outage repair and the opening of emergency shelters. “We used NIXLE a lot and got several emails thanking the police department for updates,” noted Stillman. He added that subscribers also received news from surrounding communities such as Bay Village, Westlake and Fairview Park. (To subscribe to NIXLE go to www.rrcity.com).
Mayor Pam Bobst also expressed her appreciation to residents and business owners despite a situation that frayed many nerves. “We were the first to get a shelter up, and we checked on our seniors to make sure they were taken care of. Many residents offered their homes for assistance. I know it’s frustrating, we have done what we can,” she commented.
Stillman had reported that while a “handful” of people used the shelter set up in the city civic center, the arrangement was necessary. “Even if one person needed it, it should be available,” he stated.
One of the hardest hit areas of the city, according to Bobst, was Avalon Drive and Beach Cliff Blvd., where six power lines came down and a main power pole was affected. Bobst said that at one point point, eight crews were working in that area alone. “It was incredible. It started to be a well-choreographed ballet we were working together so well,” she stated. SHe added that she and other city officials were on site for the work, to make sure even the single outages in an area were corrected before a crew moved on.
According to the city about 160 Illuminating Company repair crews responded to the area crisis. Officials said that larger areas would be addressed first, with senior complexes such as the Normandy and health care facilities, receiving priority.
Police also warn that unscrupulous repair contractors have been contacting residents in need of debris clean-up and structural repairs. Anyone suspicious should be reported to the city building department at 440-331-0600 to make sure the contractor has registered with the city and has secured a permit before performing any work. This will allow the city to inspect any completed project.
Bobst also reported that she had been informed by the Illuminating Company that very few personnel from this area were sent to assist with storm damage repair on the east coast. Those that were sent mostly were supervisors and managers.
Fire Chief Chris Flynn reported that while his crews were busy, with 42 EMT runs being made the day after the storm, people were being careful with using auxiliary power sources. He warned that generators should not be used indoors, because they generate carbon dioxide.
“I’m glad we had help from CERT,” said Flynn, referring to the Community Emergency Response Team, area residents specially trained to assist during disasters. Flynn said that CERT members staffed the shelter in Rocky River as well as those in Lakewood.
But residents weren’t the only ones inconvenienced by the storm. Chamber of Commerce executive director Liz Manning said in a statement, “Please be supportive of businesses that (were) closed. They are taking a big hit, many losing a lot of inventory. Be patient with hem and do whatever you can to help them get back on their feet.”