Patience short, gas lines long in Pa. post-Sandy

PHILADELPHIA - November 2, 2012

Among those without power were between 250 and 300 polling places, state officials said, just four days before the presidential election.

The Corbett administration would not identify which sites were in the dark since superstorm Sandy hit Monday. Most of the outages were in the southeast, Lehigh Valley and northeast; others were scattered throughout the state.

Pennsylvania has about 9,300 polling places. Electric utilities have been asked to make polling places a priority after such customers as hospitals and nursing homes.

The deadline has been extended through 5 p.m. Monday for absentee voters in counties that had to close their election offices during the week because of the storm.

Meanwhile, as gasoline stations in New Jersey were running dry, residents of that storm-battered state were traveling to Pennsylvania for fuel - particularly stations near Interstate 80 in the Poconos.

"We woke up to the generator running out of gas," Margaret Spillane, of Morris Plains, N.J., told the Pocono Record on Thursday. "And then finding out that every gas station in our town has no gas. We have no cellphone service or land line service to find a gas station."

After a 45-minute wait at Citgo station over the state line in Tannersville, Spillane found station owner Naseer Chohan keeping three lines of thirsty cars moving as best he could.

"I want to make them feel like they are home (full service is required by law in New Jersey) but some of them don't actually know how to pump gas," he told the paper.

Roughly 258,000 Pennsylvania utility customers were still without power by late afternoon Friday, down from the 1.2 million outages statewide at the peak of the storm.

In the Philadelphia area, Peco hoped to have power restored to 90 percent of affected customers by midnight Friday. The utility said some remote portions of Montgomery and Bucks counties might not have service restored until early next week.

A group of friends from those counties set up a "Bux-Mont Hurricane Sandy Cleanup Team" page on Facebook to connect volunteers with residents who need help with fallen trees and damage cleanup over the weekend.

One of the page organizers, Paul Dziewisz, said the group is "excited to roll up our sleeves and help our neighbors." The volunteer page had more than 180 members signed up.

Two more deaths in northeastern Pennsylvania's rural Wayne County were blamed on the storm, bringing the total in the state to 14. Overall, however, the state was generally spared from the devastation seen after last year's Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

Douglas Jumper, 58, of Bloomsburg, didn't take any chances with Sandy, considering the first floor of his house took on nearly five feet of water during the Lee flooding in September 2011.

He tied down his patio furniture, moved items in his wood shop to higher ground, and essentially emptied his house as Sandy approached. On Friday, he was moving back into his own home.

"Well, we didn't get much. We didn't get hit, thank God," Jumper said. "I had about three inches of surface water in the basement, but that was it."

Jumper and some relatives have been busy carting his stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer and other items back into his house. He expects it will take until Saturday to return the last of his furniture to its rightful locations.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said all of the state's major highways were open as of Friday, though many smaller thoroughfares blocked by downed trees were shut down.

PennDOT gave motorists until Nov. 15 to renew driver's license and identification cards that expire between last Friday and Nov. 15.

Associated Press writers Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh and Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg contributed to this report.

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