Heat watch in effect; power remains out in some parts of Butler, Warren counties

After severe storms made their way through Butler County on Monday night, residents were still dealing with power outages and debris cleanup on Tuesday.

Winds reached up to 70 miles per hour during the system which affected the entire region around the dinner hour. Crews worked overnight to restore power in nearly every city and township in the county, with more than 20% still without power at 6 a.m. Tuesday. Outages were happening at a time of high heat as well — it is the first big heat wave of the season with temperatures climbing into the 90s and feeling like they are in the 100s.

Duke Energy Ohio was working to restore power to 77,700 Ohio customers as of 1 p.m. Tuesday, and nearly half of the outages were located in the Middletown and northern Warren County area.

Sally Thelen, Duke spokeswoman, said the power outages stemming from Monday night’s widespread storms were the worst storm outages since the June 2012 derecho storm.

“It’s been very challenging due to the weather conditions,” she said.

Thelen said Duke Ohio crews were being reinforced with crews from Duke Energy Indiana and Duke Energy Carolinas, and the company was expecting additional crews from Michigan and Kentucky.

ExplorePHOTOS: Storm damage in Butler County

Staging bases for line crews were set up at the Butler County Fairgrounds in Hamilton and at Eastgate in Clermont County.

Fairfield City Manager Scott Timmer reported having no medical emergencies in the city due to the outages, though there were some residents still without power on Tuesday afternoon.

“Our Public Works staff is keeping traffic signals operational with generators,” Timmer said on Tuesday.

Caroline McKinney, spokeswoman for Liberty Twp., said cleanup from the storm was ongoing.

“Trees and limbs are down all over,” McKinney told the Journal-News Tuesday morning.

To her knowledge, she said, no roadways were closed due to fallen trees or power lines. Liberty Twp.’s government offices had power Tuesday morning, but a township services facility off Yankee Road did not.

In Monroe, Public Works Director Gary Morton said traffic signals were out on Ohio 63 at Main Street much of the day, and that was causing a major traffic backup. Duke Energy was working to restore power there.

Monroe crews were out in the city cleaning up debris, though there were no major reports of damage, Morton told the Journal-News.

The city of Hamilton on Tuesday morning had about 3,500 utility customers without power, but it was coming back on circuit by circuit, said Dalton Marcum, systems engineer for the city’s Department of Infrastructure. After 5 p.m., that number had been reduced to 500.

In a post on Facebook, city officials said a new phone line had been set up for people to report issues. Officials requested power customers call 513-785-7550 with outage information.

Middletown officials were still assessing the storm damage Tuesday morning while the public works department continued clearing roads of debris.

“Our guys are working overtime,” said Missy Knight, city spokeswoman. “They were out there all night.”

She said the city also was in contact with the Butler County Emergency Management Agency.

Knight reminded residents that when traffic lights are out, intersections should be treated as four-way stops.

In West Chester Twp., emergency responders handled nearly 100 calls for service because of Monday’s storms. Crews there cleared about 14 trees or large limbs from roadways.

EXCESSIVE HEAT WATCH IN EFFECT

The area is seeing higher than average June temperatures, and the dew point is very high, making things extremely muggy. An excessive heat watch was in effect Tuesday and remains until Wednesday night.

A day’s maximum heat index (often known as the apparent temperature) must reach 105 degrees in order for the National Weather Service to issue an Excessive Heat Watch. Tuesday’s highest predicted index was 106 degrees, followed by 101 degrees today and 96 degrees on Thursday.

Middletown Health Department Director Jackie Phillips warned in a statement that excessive heat is most dangerous for the elderly and infants, and encouraged residents to check in on their neighbors.

For residents to stay cool while still going about their day, Phillips suggested staying hydrated, scheduling outdoor activities before noon or after 6 p.m. and running errands during the day that allow you to escape from the heat, such as grocery shopping.

The Salvation Army in Hamilton has opened its gym as a cooling center during the hot weather this week. Located at 235 Ludlow St., it will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The MidPointe library system has opened each of its branches — located in Liberty Twp., Middletown, Monroe, Trenton and West Chester Twp. — as cooling centers. Informally, residents are encouraged to check the hours of any local libraries for a place to escape the heat.

West Chester officials said senior residents in need of rides to cooling centers may call (513) 777-2231 or (513) 759-3960.

Fairfield Twp. said folks needing to cool off may visit the Administration Building at 6032 Morris Road.

“We enjoy visitors and have plenty of water, several restrooms, and air conditioning,” states a post on the township’s Facebook page.

It is suggested to limit time outside during the hottest hours of the day to avoid heat exhaustion or heat strokes.

“Extreme heat and humidity will significantly increase the potential for heat-related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities,” the NWS said.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office is “always willing to try to find solutions to find problems,” Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said, and the office will be monitoring service calls in case this heat wave calls for additional action.

“Generally we consider the really, really low temperatures as more of a risk factor than the high temperatures,” Dwyer said. “We would always provide some kind of assistance to the community whenever we can.”

Rumpke announced Monday it will be moving this week’s trash collection services extra early in the mornings in order to avoid the excessive heat.

Journal-News staff members Avery Kreemer, Denise Callahan, Mandy Gambrell, Nick Graham, Rick McCrabb, Michael D. Pitman, Ed Richter and Michael Clark contributed to this report.

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