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Northeast Ohio Snowfall, Power Outages, Plows Continue Into Tuesday Evening

Snow continued to pound Northeast Ohio Tuesday afternoon, as nearly 70,000 First Energy customers remained without power. Those numbers rose Tuesday evening, after a midday dip.

According toFirst Energy's website, nearly 22,000 homes, or 54 percent of customers in Geauga County, are without power. Cuyahoga County has more than 31,000 outages.

Spokesperson Lauren Siburkis said approximately 104,000 customers were without power at the height of the storm and full restoration could take a few days due to downed trees.

"The damage was caused by the heavy, wet snow and ice accumulating on the branches and causing them to break off and drift into our power lines and other equipment," Siburkis said. 

Conditions will likely continue to be challenging for repair crews with more snow and high winds in the forecast through the evening.

"Before our crews can arrive to a damage location and begin to safely make those repairs, we must get a forestry crew out there to remove the tree from the road so our crews can access the location," Siburkis said.

Siburkis urged customers who have not yet reported an outage to do so at 1-888-LIGHTSS. The power company's advice: Always assume a downed wire is live, stay far away and report it to 911.

Outage totals were not available from Cleveland Public Power, but the city-owned utility's website says a new billing system and the storm is causing long hold times for customers.

Cleveland instituted a snow emergency parking ban, effective at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The city tweeted Tuesday afternoon that waste collection would be delayed by one day and snowplows began work on side streets Tuesday afternoon. Heinen's Grocery Stores elected to close all locations, 17 across the region, at 5 p.m. Tuesday due to the continuing inclement weather.

Schools in a number of Northeast Ohio communities also were closed Tuesday due to the conditions.

On the roads, the Ohio Department of Transportation in Northeast Ohio plans to keep approximately 300 snow plow drivers on 12-hour shifts until the snow is cleared.

"The biggest weather issue with lake effect snow is always how quickly it can reduce visibility while you're driving," said ODOT spokesperson Amanda McFarland. "It reduces visibility for our drivers, as well as people on the roads and that's when we do start to see some crashes."

A plow attempts to clear the roads and parking lot at Lakewood Park Tuesday afternoon as snow continued to fall. [Gayle S. Putrich / ideastream]

High winds were also causing trouble for plow drivers.

"Within a few minutes it's snow covered again and in some areas looks like they weren't even there," McFarland said. "So that is something we'll continue to battle as high winds are expected to be a problem throughout the night."

At last check, she said, Ashtabula County had more than a foot of snow in some places.

While fewer drivers are on the road because so many people are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic – a 15 to 20 percent reduction according to ODOT – timing still caused problems Tuesday.

"Mother Nature likes to really dump that snow during the most inopportune times, which is when all that traffic is on the road during those a.m. and p.m. rush hours," McFarland said.

Reduced traffic has obvious advantages, but some drawbacks as well.

"Traffic on the roads can also be a benefit because it helps keep those pavement temperatures warm and it helps the products that we're putting on the pavement get worked through the ice and the snow that is on the pavement," McFarland said. "So, having traffic isn't always a bad thing."

ODOT in Northeast Ohio began the winter season with 300,000 tons of salt, McFarland said.

According to the National Weather Service, South Thompson in Geauga County received the region’s highest snowfall so far, with more than a foot on the ground Tuesday morning. Lyndhurst topped the list for Cuyahoga County with 10 inches.

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