200K without power in Pa, 6 dead after storm

An Action News viewer sent in this photo of the first snowfall of the season in Doylestown, Pa.

October 31, 2011 10:08:07 AM PDT
The massive late-October snow storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in some parts of Pennsylvania is being blamed for at least six deaths in the commonwealth, where more than 200,000 customers were without power three days after flakes started falling - and could still be in the dark until the middle of the week.

School districts in a swath of central and northeastern Pennsylvania closed Monday morning as residents dug out from an unusually early pre-Halloween snow storm. Some closures could be attributed to power problems, particularly in the Lehigh Valley, where PPL Corp. reported a large number of its 120,000 outages.

In Allentown, downed tree branches littered countless yards and residents girded for a potentially long haul without power.

Anne Warschauer, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor from Germany, refused to leave her home on a quiet tree-lined street in Allentown even though the temperature inside had plummeted. "I'm freezing," she acknowledged. But she said she worried about her beloved cat, Pumpkin.

"They're not going to get the power back on until Thursday, Anne. You can't stay here," said her friend, 63-year-old Emma Saylor.

"I'm not going," Warschauer replied stubbornly. "So let's not talk about that anymore."

Sixteen inches of snow fell in Huffs Church, Berks County and Springtown, Bucks County. Fourteen inches fell in Salisbury Township, Lehigh County, according to the National Weather Service. Locations in Monroe and Carbon counties also saw more than a foot of snow.

PPL spokesman Michael Wood said the storm presented an enormous challenge for utility crews because of the huge number of individual cases of trouble - 3,900, about 700 more cases than PPL handled during Irene. He said 560 transformers were damaged, each serving an average of four customers. "We have a tremendous amount of work to do throughout the week," he said.

With downed trees hindering access to some areas, PPL used a helicopter on Sunday and Monday to survey the damage.

Between the damage caused by Irene, Lee and now the October snowstorm, "it's been a year most people in the utility business can't recall for a long, long time," Wood said.

Authorities attributed six deaths to the storm, including a man killed when a large, snow-laden tree fell on his house near Reading.

Five other people were killed in car crashes. Police said icy conditions led to a crash on Interstate 95 that killed two people on Sunday and treacherous conditions were also cited in a pair of fatal crashes Saturday in Bucks and Monroe counties.

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