CHAGRIN FALLS — There is no mystery to why village residents and business owners lost power repeatedly for extended periods of time starting on Dec. 1, during the first major snowstorm of the 2020-2021 winter season.

“Heavy, wet snow that kept falling and continued to develop,” said Dean Hayne, the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company’s representative to Chagrin Falls. He met virtually with village council on Monday during their regularly scheduled meeting.

Mr. Hayne introduced himself as a 30-year veteran of parent company First Energy Corp. but a newcomer to CEI and just getting acquainted with its infrastructure.

The snow brought down trees and power lines along the route of feeder lines that service the CEI substation on East Washington Street from facilities in Mayfield and Northfield.

“I’d estimate 98 percent of your wires are above ground.”

At its highest point, there were 2,400 customers without power in Chagrin Falls, he said. Most incidents of power outages were tree related, he said.

In addition, Mr. Hayne said it is “very, very rare both feeder lines would go at the same time. A third backup station on Bell Street services South Russell.”

Fire Chief Frank Zugan asked if a third or fourth feed could be added to the Chagrin Falls substation but did not get an answer.

Mr. Hayne said the station was built in the 1960s but that did not make it obsolete. There are several substations with older technology still in operation in the CEI system, he said adding that rebuilding or replacing the station is not in the budget.

“The system being old doesn’t mean its bad,” he said, adding they get a thorough inspection and tune-up every year with repairs made as needed.

Councilwoman Angela DeBernardo asked if the Chagrin Valley was hit harder than elsewhere in the region. The answer was no.

Mr. Hayne said Chagrin Falls was not the only town he had heard from. He is also representative to Geauga County.

“What can we do to help?” asked council President Erinn Grube. “This is unsustainable in a pandemic.”

“You are not alone, you are echoed by every other city official I talk to,” Mr. Hayne said.

“We try to get the information out to officials as soon as we can,” he said. “We don’t want you to be cold, nobody does.”

Time is spent on safety first. Mr. Hayne explained it takes time to assess the situation for safety of its employees and those that live in areas where wires are down. Mr. Hayne said in a big storm it could take a day or two just to assess.

At the suggestion of Councilman James Newell, Mr. Hayne said he would find ways to better communicate with public officials in the places he represents and noted that they can also email him. He acknowledged keeping residents advised is important but not easily accomplished.

Mayor William Tomko said the outages and annoying “brownouts” also serve to damage electronics, which is costly.

According to Mr. Hayne, there are mitigating measures homeowners can take and products that can be purchased that can solve those problems and which are not necessarily the responsibility of the utility.

Mrs.Grube asked Mr. Hayne to supply the village with data from the last storm so It can be posted on the village website where residents can gain access.

Residents and business owners are invited to continue to ask questions, which will be forwarded to Mr. Hayne. It is expected there will be future meetings with the CEI representative, council members indicated.

A veteran reporter and columnist, Barbara Christian has been covering Chagrin Falls since 1967 and is currently responsible for Chagrin Falls village events, government and school board news along with her weekly column "Window on Main Street."

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