Sandy kills 7 in Pa.; more than 1M lose power

October 30, 2012 8:25:04 PM PDT
Pennsylvania was battered by strong wind and heavy rain but escaped major flooding as a weakened Sandy churned across the state Tuesday, plunging more than a million customers into darkness and leaving a trail of damage. At least seven deaths statewide were blamed on the hybrid superstorm that walloped the East Coast.

Utility crews surveyed the damage and began a massive repair job to restore power to nearly 1.3 million customers across Pennsylvania, warning it could take a week or longer to finish. By late Tuesday night, more than 933,000 remained without power. Measured by the number of outages it caused, Sandy was a historic storm, ranking in the top three statewide.

Hundreds of National Guard soldiers delivered supplies and helped with the cleanup as tens of thousands of children got a second day off from school and government offices and many courts remained shuttered.

Some of the hardest-hit spots in the Philadelphia area were communities in Bucks County, north of the city. In Levittown, downed trees blocked some residential streets and many traffic lights were out, some of them knocked askew. Most businesses were closed but residents flocked to a handful of open grocery stores, lining up for ice, batteries and other supplies.

Lacking power, 47-year-old James Wolo took a cold bath before heading to his warehouse job Tuesday morning. He worried about the contents of his refrigerator.

"Food is going to start going rotten really soon," he said.

Tammy Bertel and her husband lost power at 9 p.m. Monday - their first extended outage since moving into their home 15 years ago. But she took it in stride, calling it a minor inconvenience.

"We are perfectly fine. If we have to, we'll go stay in a hotel or with friends," said Bertel, 39, of Harleysville in Montgomery County. "I've camped in the middle of a rainstorm. I'm not that high maintenance to begin with. It's not that big of a deal."

Motor vehicle travel remained tricky in spots - with hundreds of local roads in eastern Pennsylvania still impassable because of downed trees and power lines or flooding - while mass transit and air travel in the Philadelphia area slowly began returning to normal.

Across the state in Pittsburgh, Susan Adamson, 47, was growing increasingly frustrated because she's been unable to get back to New York City, where she works at a sports medicine clinic. She had flown to Pittsburgh on Friday to visit a friend and attend a Bruce Springsteen concert.

"I just feel a little bit powerless at this moment because I'm used to taking things into my own hands, but in this instance I can't," she said.

The storm was blamed for the deaths of at least seven people, including an elderly Lancaster County man who fell from a tree he was trimming in advance of the approaching storm, and a teenager who ran into a fallen tree while riding an ATV in Northampton County. In eastern Pennsylvania, a 66-year-old man died of carbon monoxide poisoning and several other people were taken to a hospital after being overcome by fumes from a generator running in a garage, and a 90-year-old suburban Philadelphia woman was found dead of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator turned on when the storm cut power to the home.

An 8-year-old boy died when a tree limb fell on him in Franklin Township, north of Montrose. In Berks County, a 62-year-old man died after a tree fell on top of a house in Pike Township, near Boyertown. And in Somerset County, a woman died when the car in which she was a passenger skidded off a snowy, slushy road and overturned into a pond.

In south-central Pennsylvania, firefighters rescued a York County woman Monday night after she jumped into a raging creek to "save" a couple dozen wild ducks. Justina Laniewski, 41, was plucked from neck-high waters - then charged with risking a catastrophe and public drunkenness, among other offenses.

Despite Sandy's huge size and soaking rains, landlocked Pennsylvania managed to avoid the kind of widespread, catastrophic flooding that marked Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011.

Some homeowners in Philadelphia's flood-prone Eastwick neighborhood - swamped with several feet of water during Hurricane Floyd in 1999 - had prepared for Sandy by putting sandbags, tarps and other barriers against their garages. Thankfully they weren't needed, said resident Martha Robertson.

"It was absolutely miraculous," she said. "The creek came to the top and it did not roll over."

Gov. Tom Corbett said Tuesday that "megashelters" at West Chester and East Stroudsburg universities would house up to 1,800 evacuees from hard-hit New Jersey and New York, along with any storm victims from Pennsylvania needing shelter.

Pennsylvania was also sending help to its coastal neighbors, including 35 ambulances and a search-and-rescue unit specializing in collapsed buildings.

Along with widespread power outages, Sandy will be remembered in Pennsylvania for its howling, middle-of-the-night winds. Anything that wasn't tied down or stowed was at risk of becoming airborne. Wind gusts reached 81 mph in Allentown and 76 mph in Bensalem, outside Philadelphia, according to the National Weather Service.

Nathan and Tami Dunleavy of rural Shartlesville, Berks County, planned to spend Tuesday clearing a trio of 60- to 70-foot trees from their yard.

"That wind was nasty," Tami Dunleavy recalled. "Nathan didn't sleep well all night because he was worried about the trees coming down and the roof blowing off."

But they considered themselves fortunate because none of the felled giants hit their home. And a gasoline generator - shielded from the wind and rain by a Little Tikes playhouse - powered the heater, sump pump, fridge and freezer.

"We make do," she said. "It works."

--
Associated Press writers Kathy Matheson and Ron Todt in Philadelphia, Peter Jackson, Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, and Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

Load Comments