With gusts of up to 60 miles per hour expected to race across several states this weekend, FirstEnergy Corp. said Friday that its 10 utility companies are preparing to respond to potential widespread power outages.
The National Weather Service issued a high wind watch for 7 a.m. Sunday through 7 a.m. Monday, when a cold front associated with a storm system that is expected to pass north of the Great Lakes will kick up west winds strong enough to down trees and power lines throughout the region.
That cold front could bring severe weather as soon as Saturday night, with the possibility of isolated thunderstorms, snow, large hail and damaging winds.
Akron-based FirstEnergy serves customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, and each area is in the path of potential electrical disruptions — and the hazards whipped up by the winds could complicate immediate response efforts.
"In much of our six-state service area, the already wet ground could be saturated with heavy rains Saturday followed by high winds Sunday into Monday, a combination that can cause trees to be uprooted," said Sam Belcher, president of FirstEnergy Utilities, in a news release. "Also, the heavy winds have the potential to make it unsafe for our workers to use bucket trucks or ladders to do overhead repair work, which could delay power restoration efforts."
The company and its contractor crews have begun communications with mutual assistance organizations ahead of the weather system's arrival, the release said.
Customers who lose power are encouraged to call 1-888-544-4877 to report the outage or click the “Report Outage” link at www.firstenergycorp.com.
Also, in the event of an outage:
• You should immediately report downed wires to your utility or police or fire department.
• You should never go near a downed power line, even if you think it is no longer carrying electricity.
• Keep pets away from areas where downed lines are tangled in trees or other debris.
• Treat intersections with inoperable traffic signals as four-way stops.
• Never use a portable generator inside the house or a closed garage. When operating a generator, the power coming into the home should always be disconnected.
It's also wise, FirstEnergy notes, to keep electronic devices such as cellphones, laptops and tablet computers fully charged to be ready for any emergencies. Mobile phones can be charged in your vehicle when the power is out. A flashlight, portable radio and extra batteries also should be kept handy.
And it's a good idea to keep extra blankets or sleeping bags handy along with fresh water and foods that do not require cooking. Do not use gas stoves, kerosene heaters or other open-flame heat sources indoors, as they could release deadly carbon monoxide gas into your home.