1.3M Remain Without Power In Ohio

CINCINNATI (AP) - Facing a third straight day without power, people across Ohio stocked up on batteries and ordered in pizza in wind-whipped areas hit by the remnants of Hurricane Ike.

About 1.3 million homes and businesses remained without electricity Tuesday while grocery stores and other retailers tried to keep up with the demand on food, ice and batteries. Many schools remained closed on Wednesday, including public schools in Columbus and Cincinnati. About half of Columbus' city schools remained without power Tuesday night.

Long lines at grocery stores, hardware stores and gas stations were common, and residents continued efforts to clean up neighborhoods and cope without power for a third day since hurricane-force winds swept through the Midwest.

Some restaurants experienced a boost in business as many people went out for a hot meal.

"It's been like a Friday night, which is to say we are extremely busy," Janet Vanover, an employee at Chester's Pizzeria in Hamilton, told The Hamilton Journal News.

Gas stations struggled to keep up with demand, as some people brought gas cans to fill up in addition to their vehicles. At a Shell station in Hamilton, manager Jeff Marshall told the Journal News he was selling about 1,000 gallons an hour.

Home Depot stores in Ohio were short on generators, tarps, gas cans and other emergency supplies because some of their stock had been sent south to help with hurricane relief in Louisiana and Texas, said Jen King, a spokeswoman for Home Depot Inc.

"I'm pretty well getting empty," said Fred Beckert, who owns Beckert Chain Saw Supply in Zanesville and was having trouble keeping up with the demand for chain saws and generators. He was expecting new shipments later in the week but said the generators coming in already had buyers.

In southwest Ohio, truckloads of ice, batteries and inexpensive coolers were selling as soon as they hit the shelves. Grocers and residents alike tried to preserve perishable food.

Lines of people waited for bagged ice at a bigg's supermarket in Mason, spokeswoman Brandi Smith said.

Home City Ice Co. has been operating 24 hours a day to help meet the heavy demand.

"We've brought in about 160 semi loads of ice from our facilities in neighboring states, and even our managers and computer and accounting people have been bagging and delivering ice," said Jay Stautberg, chief financial officer at the Cincinnati-based company. "Some places take delivery and call back an hour later needing more."

Ike dumped as much as 8 inches of rain on parts of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri after coming ashore in Texas during the weekend. The devastating rain and wind in the Midwest brought Ike's total death toll to at least 47 in 10 states from the Gulf Coast to the upper Ohio Valley. At least six deaths were reported in Ohio.

Power outages affected more than 2.6 million customers at some point after the windstorm hit Ohio on Sunday.

Utilities said they are trying to restore power in the shortest amount of time by prioritizing repairs for circuits that serve the largest numbers of people. In some cases, that means people on one street have power while neighbors a block away do not.

"It's just a matter of which way the wires go and how they were laid out," FirstEnergy Corp. spokesman Chris Eck said. Sometimes sections of a grid made sense years ago but no longer do, he said.

Gov. Ted Strickland toured wind-damaged sections of Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus on Tuesday. The outages come at a difficult time for an Ohio economy already reeling from a national economic slump and a home foreclosure crisis.

Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics in the Cleveland suburb of Pepper Pike, said any losses from the storm are likely to be made up later, particularly as people shop to replace damaged property and food that had to be thrown out.

Insurance companies said Tuesday they were being inundated with calls about property damage.

"Specifically for Ohio, this is a historic level of claims being reported in a short period of time," said Earl Haddix, an associate vice president of claims for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

Insurers said they're facing the massive demand for repairs by prioritizing the most serious cases, recognizing that some policyholders will have to wait longer to talk to or meet with insurance adjusters.

"Can you live in a house? Is the power back on? Is there severe damage?" said Mitch Wilson, a spokesman for the Ohio Insurance Institute, a trade association. "They're going to be asking questions like that to determine how to work you into the schedule."