By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
— Update: About 250 PPL customers in the local four-county region remained without electrical service by late this afternoon as crews continue their work to restore power.
PPL reports that by late afternoon today, the storm damages were affecting 137 customers in Union County, 4 in Snyder County, and 28 in Northumberland County. PPL has restored more than 7,500 customers since the storms hit on Sunday.
SUNBURY — Nearly 7,800 PPL customers in the Valley lost power and a few Sunbury buildings lost roofs when a fast-moving thunderstorm blew through the region on Sunday afternoon.
Roughly half of the customers had power restored by 9:30 p.m. At that time, PPL reported 2,510 without power in Union County, 865 in Northumberland County, 373 in Snyder County and four in Montour County. The storm reached Sunbury at about 4:45.
With their electricity off, residents along Walnut Street near 10th Street in Sunbury looked in awe at a large piece of roof hanging above their heads, tangled in power lines and a street light post. Remarkably, no one was hurt, but power was cut to the neighborhood as first-responders awaited PPL’s arrival.
Part of the roof and siding had blown off the Wolfe home at 1021 Walnut St., pieces of it flying through narrow passages and landing in the alley behind the even-numbered homes on the street.
The home at 1019 Walnut St. also lost siding, the wind having peeled it away from the house. No one was in either home at the time, and neighbors were contacting the Wolfes.
Sarah Fedder, who lives at 1012 Walnut St., said she was taking her dog outside on the back porch when she saw the roof break away from the home.
The high winds blew apart the fence at Richard and Rosalie Reitz’s home at 1022 Walnut as pieces of siding from the other house and the lock of their wooden fence lay in their yard.
A large portion of the Wolfes’ roof landed in the alley behind the Reitz home, and another piece was stuck on a roof two doors down from the Reitz house.
“It’s amazing that it came through the skinny opening here,” Rosalie Reitz said. “I can’t believe it didn’t hit anything else.”
Sections of siding also were peeled off the house by high winds that blew through the neighborhood.
About a block away, the roof of Sun-Re Cheese Corp. lay crumpled atop the building. Russ Wertz, assistant chief of the Sunbury Fire Department, said there were reports of damage to at least four roofs in the area along with numerous reports of lines and trees down.
Emergency services throughout the Valley were responding to reports of downed trees and wires, in one case a blown transformer and also a possible field fire in Mifflinburg.
Michelle Hart, who lives on 10th Street in the city, said she and her family were returning from the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon in Wellsboro when the storm caught them on Route 147 south in Northumberland.
“All the lights were out in Norry, the main traffic lights,” she said. “The wind was so hard, it was blowing some cars off of the road.”
There was not a lot of rotation depicted in weather radar of the storm, said meteorologist Brian Edwards, of AccuWeather, State College. Rather, the Valley saw straight-line winds “that certainly can do as much damage.”
The storm was part of an organized complex of storms that came through from southwestern Pennsylvania through central Pennsylvania, bringing gusty thunderstorms with damaging winds, he said. Wind gusts of 40 mph were recorded at the Penn Valley Airport near Selinsgrove, he said, while places north of the Valley, such as Williamsport, tracked wind gusts as high as 50 mph.
Edwards said AccuWeather also was getting numerous reports of downed trees and lines and power outages in this area, most notably in Northumberland County.
“We’ve been expecting this pattern,” Edwards said. “But the individual complexes are hard to pinpoint. With all the moisture and heat we’ve had, it doesn’t take much to produce damaging winds.”
The Valley’s weather will not change much this week, he said. It will stay warm and humid and, with a high of 85 degrees, today is likely to be the coolest this week.
Showers and thunderstorms are expected, likely in the afternoons, with temperatures going up to 90 and beyond beginning Tuesday. A potent cold front expected Wednesday could spark even more widespread thunderstorms, Edwards said.
His biggest concern now is flash flooding. A wet June has made for saturated ground that could see low-lying areas and parts with poor drainage experiencing high water.