Cleveland West Side suburbs hit hard by Superstorm Sandy make key changes to storm response

LAKEWOOD, Ohio - Roads closed. Power lines and trees down at nearly every turn. Bay Village, Rocky River, Lakewood and Fairview Park were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. 

Nearly 1,000 trees were wiped out along the lakeshore communities, 500 of them in Bay Village alone. About 250 of those trees blocked roads.

Several hundred thousand northeast Ohioans were in the cold and dark without power for more than a week. Several area grocery stores were also without power. 

Cleaning up took even longer.

After Sandy, several West Side mayors met with Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company.

The first big change they discussed was for the power company crews to talk with fire chiefs and city service departments to pinpoint parts of town with immediate concern. For instance, Lakewood had many senior citizens living in high-rise apartments who had no power for medical devices.

Power companies used to head to the area where large grids of power outages happened, but in Bay Village, which appears on a computer to be a small power grid, it actually impacts thousands of homes.

"It didn't help that no one expected Cleveland's West Side suburbs to get hit so hard by Sandy. But after meeting with power company officials, they promise to dedicate a contact person to the smaller cities so crews can be directed to the truly hardest hit areas," said Bay Village Mayor Debbie Sutherland.

Secondly, while outage websites and smart phone alerts kept many people informed after the storm, many senior residents don't have computers and only use land line phones.

Bay Village now keeps those residents informed with reverse 9-1-1 and even uses old-fashioned but reliable message boards -- something they tried during a snow storm last winter.

And thirdly, Lakewood, Rocky River, Bay Village and Fairview Park, which never had a hurricane file before Sandy, do now. Hurricane files that include notes and plans on how to respond during the aftermath of future super storms.

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