By Jeff Gallatin
Mayor Debbie Sutherland and Illuminating Co. officials believe they’re ready to provide a bigger and better response to any future major weather events like Hurricane Sandy.
Sutherland and Illuminating Co. spokesman Mark Durbin said the city and utility company believe a Nov. 14 meeting between company President John Skory and Sutherland, Fairview Park Mayor Eileen Patton and Rocky River Mayor Pamela Bobst will help provide that response.
Sutherland and Durbin said they were encouraged by what came out of the meeting.
“We went in looking to find better ways of responding more quickly, as well as finding better ways of communicating information, and we accomplished that,” she said.
“It was a productive meeting,” he said. “Whenever the mayors or officials indicate they want to talk, the company is willing to do so. We went in looking for ways of responding better, and we think we did so.”
The mayors sought the meeting after Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to thousands of residents in all three of their cities for several days, as well as causing major disruptions and thousands of dollars in damages.
Sutherland said Skory’s commitment to provide cut and clear crews, to help make roadways and other areas accessible more quickly after a storm, is a good step.
“One of the problems was that the way they had their responses set up was that we really didn’t get a lot of crews and workers into Bay Village until Friday,” Sutherland said. “The storm hit Monday night and there were still high winds and other dangerous parts of the storm going on Tuesday, so they couldn’t really get people working until Wednesday. We had a lot of roads and other areas which were closed for days. But because of the way they prioritized responses, they went to the larger communities first.”
“When they got here, they did a great job of getting things back up and running as quickly as they could,” she said. “But with that setup, Bay Village and cities like it are going to be at a disadvantage in terms of getting help in here. But the president seemed to appreciate what we were saying and committed to working on a way to get a system for getting some cut and clear crews to our city quicker.”
Sutherland said Skory also said the utility would be working on providing better information for esidents.
“We had a lot of residents understandably asking us when they would get their power back, and we couldn’t tell them because we didn’t know,” she said. “We needed to find a better way of getting information from the power companies, so we could communicate it to people.
“He (Skory) so said they would have grid maps for showing what was going on with work and problems so that we could see what was going on better,” she said. “He also said that they could set up conference calls with us (different cities and officials) so they could communicate better to all of us what was going on.”
Sutherland said the officials haven’t determined yet what format the maps will be in.
Durbin said the Illuminating Co. is aware there were problems.
“There were things that we probably could have done better, and there were probably some ways where the cities could have (helped) or can help us,” he said. “Those are reasons we have these kind of talks — to see how we can do things better.”
He said the sheer scope of Sandy also played a role in the reaction.
“Fortunately, we haven’t had a lot of storms like that,” he said.