Betty Lin-Fisher
Bob Downing
and Carol Biliczky

FirstEnergy Corp. officials are watching superstorm Sandy closely, especially considering that one of its operating companies, Jersey Power & Light, operates directly in the storm’s path, spokesman Mark Durbin said.

Additionally, the aftereffects of the storm could hit all of the company’s five-state footprint: Ohio, Pennsylvania, parts of New Jersey, West Virginia and western Maryland.

The utility has been asking for mutual aid from other utilities and has sent 200 linemen from its Ohio operations to the East Coast and 1,000 support personnel.

The Akron-based utility kept back enough workers in Ohio to take care of operations here, Durbin said.

In Akron, “it all depends on what the wind is going to do.”

The storm could affect all parts of the company, he said, with flooding and high winds in New Jersey, 2 feet of snow in high elevations of West Virginia and Pennsylvania and high winds in Ohio.

“We could be very busy, but we are a big company and have a lot of resources,” Durbin said.

FirstEnergy has contracted crews to the East Coast from as far away as Iowa, Kentucky, Florida and Michigan. The utility was trying to get some crews from Canada and as far as away as New Mexico.

As a precaution, Akron Public Schools was among a lengthy list of Northeast Ohio schools to call off classes today.

Beware of scams

The Summit County Office of Consumer Affairs and Akron-area Better Business Bureau are warning consumers to be leery of repair scams or fraudulent pleas for donations surrounding Sandy.

Consumers should avoid donating money in response to social media messages, Facebook posts, tweets, unsolicited email or websites, because many of these might be sham requests, Summit County Office of Consumer Affairs Director Cynthia Sich said Monday. It is not uncommon for shysters to use familiar-sounding names that mimic legitimate organizations.

You can contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 to determine if the company asking for a donation is registered to raise funds in Ohio. Information also is available at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/CharitableSearch.aspx.

Also, resist pressure. Legitimate charities or fundraisers will send you information about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.

Should you experience property damage as a homeowner, take your time and do not allow yourself to be rushed into making any decisions. Contact your insurance company, take pictures of the damage and let your agent know how to reach you.

Before you hire any service or contractor for home repairs, including tree care, check out the company’s complaint history with the Office of Consumer Affairs by calling 330-643-2879. Regardless, you need to get everything in writing, avoid huge down payments and never make cash payments until all work is completed to your satisfaction.

For more consumer tips, visit www.co.summit.oh.us/conaffairs.htm.

Flights canceled

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Monday afternoon canceled all flights in and out of the airport until noon today.

Hopkins spokeswoman Jackie Mayo said some airlines had canceled about 40 percent of their flights Sunday and Monday.

Mayo said the airport technically remains open, but no airlines were flying in or out.

“It a myriad of things,” she said. “The East Coast shut down, the wind, the rain. The trifecta of weather.”

At Akron-Canton Airport, all flights this morning for Airtran and Frontier were canceled, spokeswoman Kristie Van Auken said.

“I think this is all pre-emptive,” she said. “There is no real reason that flights could not be operating.”

Volunteer assistance

Three Akron-area American Red Cross workers are en route to New Jersey, where Sandy made landfall Monday evening.

They are among 14 volunteers from Northeast Ohio who have been dispatched to the Eastern Seaboard to provide shelter and food assistance for displaced people.

Two of the volunteers are driving the Akron area’s Emergency Response Vehicle with supplies to reach remote areas for those who have been cut off due to flooding or power outages.

More volunteers might be called out, Red Cross spokeswoman Christine Moran said.

About 400 other Red Cross volunteers are on standby for disaster relief locally.

The Salvation Army also said it was in a standby mode, with hundreds of volunteers and vehicles ready for deployment as requested by local emergency management agencies.

Tree expert deployed

The Kent-based Davey Tree Expert Co. has moved “hundreds of crews” to the East Coast to assist its utility partners, spokeswoman Jennifer Lennox said.

The two-worker crews came from as far away as Florida and Oklahoma in the past few days, she said, declining to provide a more specific number on the Davey employees who will be assisting.

The company has 7,000 employees in North America.

Asplundh Tree Expert Co. said in a news release that it has deployed 2,500 tree workers and more than 800 extra line workers from 23 states, including Ohio, to the affected region.

Use caution

The Summit County Emergency Management Agency advises residents to stay away from downed power lines and call authorities if they come upon them.

Also, turn around and go the other way if you come upon a flooded area while driving. If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and go to higher ground.