Gov. Tom Corbett said Pennsylvania, compared to New Jersey and New York, "dodged a bullet" with Sandy and was spared from the devastation seen after last year's Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The state's flood-prone river towns saw road flooding but little building damage. The storm is blamed for at least 12 deaths in Pennsylvania.
More than half the 1.2 million Pennsylvania utility customers who lost power were back on the grid Thursday, but more than 384,000 customers were still without power. In the Philadelphia area, PECO still had 175,000 outages but hoped to have 90 percent back by midnight Friday. The utility said customers in some remote portions of Montgomery and Bucks counties might not have service restored until early next week.
Many residents have headed back to work or school in an attempt to salvage part of the week, but some school closures persisted Thursday in hard-hit areas.
"We feel really blessed," said Carol Kaplan, whose Wyncote neighborhood in suburban Philadelphia was populated with tipping utility poles and fallen tree branches from Sandy's high winds. Her home was dry, her power was on and her grandchildren were staying with her until the lights came back on at their own house nearby.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said all but a few major roads were clear and open in Pennsylvania as of Thursday, though many smaller thoroughfares blocked by downed trees were shut down. Planes, trains, buses and subways were rolling.
In anticipation of the dropping temperatures expected this weekend in parts of Pennsylvania affected by Sandy, many community organizations were offering a respite from the cold and a place for residents to charge their cellphones, shower or get a hot meal.
Several churches, the Salvation Army and the local Boys & Girls Club in Easton were helping local residents in need. The Dewey Fire Co. in Hellertown was open for charging electronics, using free Wi-Fi or warming up with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Some supermarkets in the Lehigh Valley, in cooperation with the PPL utility, were providing free ice and water to residents still without power Thursday.
PPL also set up a trailer camp and staging area for hundreds of out-of-state utility workers in the parking lot of Dorney Park, an amusement park in Allentown.
"It can accommodate 200 to 500 utility workers from outside of our area, house and feed them, provide showers, food, supplies, materials, instructions for the day and guides to their work locations," PPL spokesman Michael Wood said.
The camp was set up because hotels in the area are booked solid with locals whose homes are without power, he said.
Wayne Fanelli, whose Pine Grove Manufactured Homes business was damaged by Lee last year, said the business took precautions this time, but it became clear pretty quickly that Sandy wasn't going to create the same kind of problems.
"We had no flooding at all. It was a coastal thing, and we were flooded by creeks before," Fanelli said of his business, about 35 miles northeast of Harrisburg. "Everybody took precautions, everybody was concerned, but it was pretty evident early on that nothing was going to happen."
Corbett on Thursday extended the deadline for some absentee voters to get their ballots in. Any counties that had to close their election offices during the week because of the storm will accept ballots through 5 p.m. Monday.
PennDOT gave motorists until Nov. 15 to renew vehicle registrations and safety and emissions inspections due Wednesday. Driver's license and identification cards that expire between last Friday and Nov. 15 are now due for renewal Nov. 15.
Renee Lawton, a married mother of four, lives in a flood-prone area of Bloomsburg, along the Susquehanna River, about 60 miles northeast of Harrisburg. After their home was flooded during Lee last year, the Lawtons prepared for the worst from Sandy - but were spared.
"Nope, we got very lucky. We just had high winds, a little bit of rain. Everything's fine around here," she said Thursday. "We didn't lose power. We just had a power surge, and it came right back on."
Lawton lives about three streets away from Fishing Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River, and not far from the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, which floods frequently when both waterways overflow their banks.
Despite their good fortune this year, the Lawtons plan to move.
"We're actually looking for another house. This one's going to be a rental property," she said. "I'm not going to keep moving my stuff out of the house every time we think it's going to flood."
Associated Press writers Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh and Patrick Walters in Wyncote contributed to this report.