WILMINGTON — As a thought exercise, the new director of the Clinton County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) asks us to consider what may have happened if the widespread and lengthy power outage in March had been on a chilly Tuesday rather than “kind of a lazy Saturday” with mild temperatures.
To jog memories, very strong winds rolled through the area Thursday night, March 14. Those winds blew down 58 transmission poles and about 35 distribution poles. Then on Saturday morning March 16, the last transmission line that was feeding Wilmington went down, and when that occurred seven substations went dark leaving all of Wilmington without power for five hours.
Because it was a Saturday, schools were not in session and many companies were on a light weekend work schedule, noted Clinton County EMA Director Thomas Breckel, whose first day in the position was a couple weeks later on April 1.
The power outage was bad enough, but it could have been worse if the outage had taken place on a business day with brisk weather, he said when meeting with commissioners this week.
One takeaway from the event for him as the local EMA director stems from the response of some residents. There were people on Facebook trying to find restaurants that were still open because they did not have the means to cook in their house and Wilmington restaurants were affected.
“I use that as a bellwether as to what is their level of preparedness,” said Breckel.
It’s important that people be in a position to deal with events when appliances and conveniences in the house cannot be used.
“People have grills; there are different things they could have done,” he said.
Community outreach is part of his job, and Breckel is working on an upcoming series of six articles in the News Journal. He also plans to hold community preparedness workshops.
During his commissioners appointment, Breckel alluded to climate change or climate disturbances. He commented the topic is very political and he did not wish to have a political discussion.
But he did say there have been an increase in climatic occurrences.
“Ohio averages 19 tornadoes per year; one night we had 21. That’s not normal,” the EMA director said.
In the same vein, he referred to historical averages when it comes to precipitation and the half-year data for 2019.
Two new part-time staffers will join the EMA within weeks to focus on program development, said Breckel.
Breckel returned to his hometown of Wilmington following service in the military and experience in emergency management to shield populations during man-made and natural disasters.
He was selected from among 16 applicants for the EMA director position, succeeding Michael Jones who passed away in January.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.