By DAN SEWELL, Associated Press
CINCINNATI — Ohio braced for more cold, wet, windy weather after the storm called Sandy morphed from hurricane into a hybrid storm on the East Coast, interrupting travel, Halloween plans and campaigning in the presidential swing state as officials warned of possible flooding and an early snowfall.
The airlines serving Cleveland Hopkins International Airport canceled all outgoing flights through midday Tuesday, and the incoming flights were few and far between, an airport spokesman said Monday evening. More flights were canceled at airports in Columbus, Dayton and the Cincinnati region.
Meanwhile, dozens of communities from northwest to southeast Ohio decided to postpone their midweek trick-or-treat Halloween events for the sake of safety and staying dry.
The city of Brunswick, south of Cleveland, took a different approach, announcing it would go forward with its Wednesday night trick-or-treat hours and simultaneously host a free, indoor "Frankenstorm Party" at the local recreation center, welcoming costumed youngsters and offering them candy, a craft or even a swim in the pool.
"It's an alternative if they don't want to go out in the weather," said Diane Grabowski, an assistant to the parks and recreation director.
The National Weather Service expected "numerous trees and utility lines" to be knocked down by the storm's winds; forecasters projected gusts of up to 65 mph near Lake Erie. A high wind warning in effect through Tuesday afternoon advised that some areas could face widespread power outages.
FirstEnergy reported about 22,000 customers without power Monday evening in northeast Ohio, where a few surfers took advantage of bigger waves on Lake Erie.
Ohioans were urged to monitor storm developments, especially residents living around Lake Erie and in other low-lying areas. There were flood warnings and watches for eastern and northeastern Ohio and high wind warnings for most of the state. Forecasters expected storms with 30-40 mph winds in much of the state starting Monday evening and lasting into Tuesday afternoon.
They also said some Ohioans likely will see the season's first snow Tuesday.
Rangers at the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio urged hunters and hikers to be wary of knocked down trees.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney canceled planned rallies Tuesday in Lima and Kettering. President Barack Obama had earlier returned to Washington to oversee government storm readiness instead of going to scheduled rallies in Florida and then Youngstown.
Elections officials in Ohio said county boards had contingency plans, and the state's early voting that started Oct. 2 continued Monday. In Columbus, Franklin County elections spokesman Ben Piscitelli said the board had a gas-powered generator on standby and electronic voting machines have 30 minutes of backup power, so voters would not be interrupted while completing their ballots.
"Nothing will be lost," Piscitelli said.
In September 2008, the remnants of Hurricane Ike hit Ohio with winds gusting more than 70 mph, causing widespread power outages, more than $1 billion in damage and six deaths. This summer, hundreds of thousands of people went days without electricity during a heat wave after a line of "derecho" storms brought heavy rain and gusts up to 80 mph.
"Ohio is no stranger to strong winds and prolonged power outages," Nancy Dragani, executive director of the state's Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement. "We encourage everyone to get ready."
The state recommended households have flashlights or other battery-operated light available, a battery-operated radio, bottled water, nonperishable foods, blankets and other emergency supplies.