It was around 50 degrees Monday inside January Paint & Wallpaper in Akron’s West Hill.
This area and parts of downtown were in their third day without heat after a major water main burst near Akron Children’s Hospital, disrupting natural gas service during a surge cold in January.
The city repaired the broken water main on Saturday, but other repairs were taking longer.
Some gas service had been restored on Monday, but Dominion Energy Ohio said it could take another two days to complete repairs to all gas lines.
Andy January, whose family started the paint and wallpaper store more than 65 years ago, said all businesses face crises.
“We are adults. We are responsible for ourselves,” January said, bundled up in a hat, gloves and long johns under his khaki.
His family bought three electric heaters for $200 each and borrowed three more to make sure the store stayed warm enough so the paint gallons wouldn’t freeze.
But January was worried about a neighbor with Down syndrome who lived nearby. The neighbor refused the January aid because the forecast called for more snow and temperatures of 15 degrees.
Meanwhile, across downtown Akron on Monday, a separate and unrelated utility crisis appears to have been resolved.
A fire in an underground power vault Saturday morning at Main and West Market streets knocked out power downtown around 9 a.m. Sunday.
The Akron City Court, Stubbs Justice Center and some businesses in downtown Akron were closed Monday due to the extended outage, which affected 173 downtown customers.
Ohio Edison crews worked overnight to restore power and initially hoped to restore power by 9 a.m. Monday. As of 10:45 a.m., the company said crews had nearly completed repairs and would soon begin re-supplying customers in small batches.
Power was finally restored to downtown Akron at 2 p.m. Monday.
The reason for the consecutive disasters is unclear
Ward 1 Councilor Nancy Holland said the cause of the back-to-back utility disasters was not entirely clear, but she knows winter weather has delayed repairs.
“If I had to name this weekend it would be ‘Thank you, Mother Nature,'” Holland said.
Holland learned of the water main break and resulting gas line problem on Saturday morning.
She said she was relieved after learning that some immediate concerns – Akron Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House – were not dependent on gas heating. Akron Children’s uses steam heating and Ronald McDonald’s rooms use electric heating, she said.
The Mayflower Tower for older and disabled adults on Main Street was also unaffected. City of Akron says it’s steam heated. But the 74-unit Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) Belcher Apartments on Locust Street lost heat to gas.
Dominion told Holland it was reaching out to all of its customers without heating and offering to pay hotels until gas can be restored. But only one Belcher resident accepted that offer, said Debbie Barry, AMHA’s acting executive director.
Some residents did not want to leave their pets. Others were already in bed for the night when arrangements were made. Either way, Barry said Dominion had brought a “war wagon” that provided temporary gas to power Belcher’s boilers so the apartments never dipped below 60s.
Just after 8 p.m. Saturday, Holland posted an update on his Council Facebook page and urged anyone who had not been contacted by Dominion to give him a ringtone on their cell phone.
“What a year this week has been,” she said in a message at the bottom of the post.
Holland learned of the power outage across downtown Akron around 9 a.m. Sunday.
“There’s a long time when you think it’s a prank,” Holland said.
But of course that was not the case. Holland again updated his constituents on Facebook.
“I have received confirmation of a fire in the vault at Market and Main streets; and power has been cut in this downtown area. This is a separate event from the gas line problem in the Bowery area,” she wrote. “Please avoid the city center and drive carefully today – the streets are slippery. People, #breathe.”
Putting out the vault fire was tricky, Holland said. Firefighters had to use foam and ventilate the smoke in some way so it wouldn’t flood nearby buildings.
And fixing electrical, like fixing gas, is slow work in the snow and cold.
Weather makes repairs more difficult
A FirstEnergy spokeswoman said on Monday that “cleaning up fire debris and repairing our underground equipment is complex in ideal weather conditions, and yesterday’s extreme weather conditions made this effort even more difficult and time-consuming. “.
To restore power, crews had to go to around 45 city vaults to carry out electrical switch work, “all of which were covered in snow and needed to be cleared before our crews could begin making repairs.” .
Summit County offices in the Ohio building, including executive and tax offices, offered limited services Monday. Several municipal offices in Akron also offered limited services.
More crews sent:Dominion Energy Ohio sends more crews to repair gas lines disabled by city water main break
Summit County Council canceled its regular Monday meeting. Summit County Common Pleas Court and Summit County Probate Court were also closed. The Summit County Family Relations Court and Summit County Clerk’s offices were open. County offices in other locations remained open with full services.
Dominion Energy Ohio also said winter weather was slowing down its repairs.
About 25 customers returned to service Sunday evening, with more customers expected to be back in service Monday, Dominion said in a news release. “Restoration is likely to continue on Tuesday and Wednesday. Freezing temperatures and snowfall are causing repairs to take longer than expected.”
Affected customers will continue to be offered overnight accommodation while their service is restored, Dominion said. Customers requiring overnight shelter are asked to call Dominion Energy at 1-877-542-2630.
Dominion Energy said it brought in technicians from Akron, Cleveland, Ashtabula, Canton and Youngstown to perform repairs and restore natural gas service. The utility said it also has contractors to help with repair and restoration efforts.
Water main break:Crews work to restore natural gas service to downtown Akron after pipe breaks, water leaks in gas lines
Always in the cold
Affected residential and commercial customers are along West Cedar and Exchange streets, side streets connecting the two, in an area that stretches from Akron Children’s Hospital to the Cleveland Clinic Akron General just beyond of Glendale Cemetery in the West Hill neighborhood of Akron, according to Dominion.
On Monday afternoon, in the same block as January Paint & Wallpaper, a fire broke out in a house in the 300 block of West Exchange Street. A neighbor said the house was one of those without heating.
The Akron Fire Department extinguished the blaze and said a family of four had been moved from the duplex. It was unclear whether a heater or another method of trying to keep warm could have caused the fire.
It was unclear why the family had not accepted Dominion’s offer to pay for a hotel room until the gas could be restored. Dominion officials said they had paid for about 45 hotel rooms for Akron residents Sunday night and would continue to house them until gas service was restored.
Dominion Monday Night will welcome at least one more person.
When a reporter told Holland about January’s neighbor with Down syndrome, she researched who owned the man’s house and contacted the owner.
Dominion told Holland the man had previously declined his hotel offer, but Holland said she “persuaded Dominion to skip the paperwork and allow the owner more than willing to provide transportation” so the man can stay in a warm hotel.
“Everyone is happy,” Holland wrote during a board committee meeting.
Andy January, meanwhile, was still working in the cold.
“Well, when you’re a small business, if someone comes to pick up something and you’re not open for whatever reason, they might never come back,” said January, who is 76. year. “We had people coming and going all day.”
Beacon Journal reporter Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected] Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ.