CLEVELAND ELECTRIC Illuminating Co. employees were busy Friday restoring power throughout the area, including this home at 1230 Harmon Ave. in Ashtabula.

Thousands of ice storm victims in Ashtabula County residents were still without power early today, but relief is on the way, officials said.

FirstEnergy estimated some 10,000 customers were without electricity by midnight Thursday, and some may not see service until Saturday, said Mark Jones, Illuminating Co. area manager.

More than 100 overhead line and forestry crews, some from Pennsylvania, have been working “around the clock” to restore service, Jones said. At the storm’s peak, more than 55,000 customers were without power, he said.

“It was a significant storm,” Jones said.

Repair efforts are now being concentrated in some of the county’s hardest-hit areas, including Ashtabula, Conneaut, Kingsville Township, North Kingsville, Roaming Shores and Rock Creek, Jones said Thursday. Every customer should be back in service today, but there is a chance some may not see power until Saturday, he said.

In some cases, crews have had to make repeated visits to a neighborhood because limbs have fallen after repairs were made, knocking down lines fixed a short time earlier, Jones said. “(Repairs) have been painstakingly slow,” he said.

Ashtabula County commissioners Thursday declared a state of emergency, action that could help the county recoup money spent dealing with the storm. Other communities, including Conneaut and Ashtabula, have declared formal emergencies

Students in the Conneaut, Ashtabula, Geneva and Buckeye school districts stayed home for a second straight day Thursday because of widespread outages, downed wires and snapped tree limbs.

Thursday night, it was learned Ashtabula Area City Schools and Ss. John and Paul would be closed today.

Joe Tredent, school drama coach, said the Lakeside play “Little Shop of Horrors will go on this weekend despite the closing.

It will be performed at the school tonight, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

American Red Cross shelters in Ashtabula and Conneaut were open Thursday night, said Mary Ellen Coneglio, executive director of the Ashtabula chapter. Shelters at Lakeside Junior High School in Ashtabula and Fire Station 3 in Conneaut attracted about 20 overnight guests Wednesday at each location, she said.

In addition, many churches opened their doors to parishioners without heat in their homes, Coneglio said.

“Altogether, we had a couple hundred people in shelters,” she said. “This is one of the most serious events we’ve had in Ashtabula County.”

Mail carrier have found it impossible to make deliveries to some addresses because of fallen limbs and utility wires, said David VanAllen, U.S. Post Office spokesman. Ashtabula’s main headquarters on Station Avenue was closed at intervals on Wednesday and Thursday because of outages, he said.

Ashtabula County Medical Center has treated about 25 people suffering from storm-related ailments, ranging from smoke inhalation to fall injuries, said Tina Stasiewski, spokeswoman. Information from UH Conneaut and Geneva medical centers was not immediately available Thursday afternoon.

Sheriff William Johnson, coordinating the county’s Emergency Management Agency until a new director is hired, asked the public to be patient as repair work continues. Damage from the ice storm is staggering and will take time to correct, he said.

“The general public has to understand (repairs) won’t be at the snap of a finger,” Johnson said. “Be patient with us. We’re doing everything humanly possible to get the county back to normal. We’ll get through this.”

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