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Polar vortex could cost $124 million

Columbus -- Ohio insurance officials say the early January deep freeze, accompanied by heavy snow and ice, will end up being one of the costliest winter storms in the state in recent decades.

Preliminary figures released Feb. 27 by the Ohio Insurance Institute show that the bills for broken and frozen water pipes, ice buildup and wind damage Jan. 5-8 will end up running from $97.8 million to $124.4 million.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that insurers have received 14,748 claims so far, with about three-quarters from homeowners. Most of the rest are from businesses.

Wind chills as low as 49 below hit the state during that period along with ice, heavy snow and high winds. Several cities posted record low temperatures. Winter storms in Ohio had not caused this much damage since December 2004, when insured losses totaled $105 million in today's prices. A blizzard in March 1993 caused insured losses of $193.5 million.

-- Associated Press

Governor names new head of PUCO

Columbus -- A former state lawmaker who represented Guernsey and surrounding counties was named by Gov. John Kasich Feb. 28 as the next head of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Thomas W. Johnson, a Muskingum County native and current resident of suburban Columbus, will take over when Todd Snitchler steps down next month. His term will stretch through April 2019.

Johnson served more than two decades in the Ohio House, representing all or parts of Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum, Athens and Washington counties. He was chairman of the powerful finance committee and served on the chamber's public utilities and energy and environment committees. Johnson will take his new PUCO post on April 11, subject to the consent of the Ohio Senate.

-- Marc kovac, capital bureau

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