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* News Release *
 
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
For Immediate Release

BCEO BACK ONLINE FOLLOWING POWER OUTAGE
Cleanup from Massive Windstorm Continues

The Butler County Engineer's Office is back online following the widespread power outages caused by Sunday's massive windstorm. While our web site has been down, employees of the Engineer's Office have been quite busy behind the scenes and out on the roads despite there being only limited backup power at the BCEO facility.

Crews were called in during the height of the storm Sunday afternoon to clear debris, fallen trees, and branches and limbs from roadways, according to Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens. Most roads were passable by late Monday; however, downed poles and power lines continued to block some roads. BCEO crews had to wait for utility companies to clear these areas before they could clean up the remaining debris and reopen the roadways. Usually put into place during severe snow storms, a Level 3 Weather Emergency was declared by the Butler County Sheriff on Sunday and was lowered to Level 1 status Monday afternoon.

By Tuesday morning all roads on the County road system were clear and open to traffic. Crews will continue to haul away from the berms any debris that had been blocking roads and will make certain that all potential hazards are removed over the next two to three weeks. Motorists are asked to contact the BCEO Operations Department at 513-785-4157 if they spot any debris on or hanging over a County road that could be hazardous.

Traffic Signals Take a Beating

Fallen trees and debris aren't the only problems with which the Engineer's Office has had to contend. "We maintain 68 traffic signals, most of which were without power following the storm," said Wilkens. "In addition, 24 signal heads were twisted or turned out of alignment. We've had to completely replace ten signal heads, eight of which were blown to the ground sustaining significant damage."

Some traffic signals have battery backups that are designed to last four to eight hours. BCEO Traffic Engineer Matt Loeffler reports that a few lasted for nearly 20 hours during the early stages of the blackout. As power is gradually restored to the area, about 60 percent of the signals were repaired and back in operation yesterday and roughly 95 percent are fully operational as of noon today. A few signals are running on alternate power via generators until electricity is re-established. Loeffler is tending to each and every signal ensuring that all are operating correctly, or will be once power is restored. He reminds all motorists that when signals are dark, the intersection becomes a four-way stop.

While road crews have been working nearly non-stop, office employees at the BCEO have had to contend with limited power. "A generator kept us from being in the dark, but it wasn't enough to power everything," Wilkens noted. "As a consequence, our computer servers were down keeping us offline for several days. It is certainly good to have the web site back up and our interoffice network in full operation. While we are back to 100 percent in the office, there are a few road construction projects that will experience a slight delay due to this extreme weather event. And some projects that are being performed by our BCEO crews are temporarily on hold since the crews have had to focus on roadway cleanup."

Windstorm Reminiscent of '78 Blizzard

Last Sunday's windstorm was a result of the low pressure remnants of Hurricane Ike merging with a cold front relative to a high pressure system to the southeast. Most of Ohio and portions of Kentucky and Indiana were caught in a very tight gradient between these two pressure systems resulting in hurricane force winds, yet under mainly sunny conditions. Sustained winds of 40-60 mph were reported for a five to six hour period Sunday afternoon with gusts over 75 mph. An 84 mph gust was reported in West Chester Township here in Butler County.

Veteran employees of the BCEO recalled the Blizzard of '78 when comparing this storm to those of the past. While gusty thunderstorms and tornadoes often produce high winds and localized damage, it is not often that this area experiences such a prolonged period of sustained high winds and hurricane force gusts that result in such widespread damage. The last time that occurred would have been during the Blizzard of '78 when sustained winds of 45-60 mph and gusts over 100 mph struck Ohio. Click here for a meteorological account of that historic event.

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For more information contact:

Chris Petrocy, BCEO Public Information Supervisor
Greg Wilkens, P.E., P.S., Butler County Engineer
Phone 513.867.5744 • Fax 513.867.5849


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