The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 29, 2012

Storm puts thousands from Valley in the dark

High winds knock down trees, power lines

Rick Dandes and Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Central Susquehanna Valley late Monday, bringing 50 mph winds with gusts topping 55 mph, knocking out power to thousands of people.

The worst of the storm occurred in a six-hour period, from 8 p.m. Monday to 2 a.m. today, said Andy Mussoline, a meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College.

The top recorded wind gust during Monday daylight hours was 47 mph.

A dwelling caught fire shortly after 7 p.m. at 3500 Middlecreek Road. Complications in fighting the fire arose because of gusting wind, tree branches on the road and downed powerlines.

“Hurricane Sandy should lessen in impact by 2 a.m.,” Mussoline continued, “although the area will see wind and rain most of Tuesday.”

Mussoline said that widespread power outages will likely be the biggest problem encountered by residents.

As the storm moved with strength into the Valley, PPL Electric Utilities personnel were busy repairing scattered power outages across the utility’s service area ahead of the main assault from Hurricane Sandy, said Teri McBride, a PPL regional spokeswoman.

At 8 p.m., 3,680 PPL and Citizens’ Electric customers were without power.

Worst hit in Union County, with 1,440 customers without power, were Hartley (459 customers) and Kelly (350) townships.

Snyder County had 2,055 PPL customers without power, most of them in Franklin Township (1,486 customers).

In all, PPL serves 29 Pennsylvania counties. About 1,600 additional outside personnel, from Iowa, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Missouri will be helping with damage assessment and outage restoration, McBride said.

Help from Kentucky was on the way to assist personnel in the Union-Snyder-Northumberland area, but as of early Monday evening, they had not yet arrived, McBride said.

McBride said it’s too early to say how long power restoration efforts would last, but multi-day outages, in some cases, possibly a week or more, are possible.

“That’s because in some cases severe weather conditions and rain may make it unsafe for utility workers to perform restoration work,” she said.

PPL customers are reminded to report power outages at 1-800-DIAL-PPL (1-800-342-5775) or online at Customers need to register their accounts to report outages online, and the Outage Center website is adapted for mobile phones.

Meanwhile, more than 100 Alliant Energy linemen and auxiliary personnel from Iowa and Wisconsin left their homes Sunday to help aid New York customers in whatever damage Hurricane Sandy will leave behind.

The crews, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, stopped near Lewisburg on Monday night to rest and get ready for some serious work.

“It took us about 17 hours,” said Joe Vanoort. “But we were happy to come.”

Crews were called in by electric companies to help mend power lines and remove trees that are expected to fall in the wake of the storm.

“They called and asked us for help,” said Alliant Energy supervisor Jeff Recker. “Our guys are always glad to help and some of them are junkies for this kind of stuff.”

The SUN Area American Red Cross, serving Snyder, Union and Northumberland counties, has three shelters in the area to assist people affected by Hurricane Sandy as it rips through the Valley.

The three shelter locations are: Donald Eichhorn Middle School, Washington Avenue in Lewisburg; Selinsgrove Area Middle School, 18th Street in Selinsgrove; and Shamokin Area High School, West State Street, Coal Township.

Each shelter will have county animal rescue teams on site to assist with pets forced to evacuate with their families, said Anne Smith, communications coordinator with the Red Cross. However, the Red Cross is encouraging those who can to make alternate arrangements for their pets, Smith said.

People with severe medical issues should call 911 instead of reporting to their local shelter, Smith said.

The SUN Area Red Cross is updating its Facebook page frequently to keep people updated, Smith said. People in affected areas should also tune into their local media for updates on the storm, Smith said.