Good-bye IrenePreparations pay off for Ephrata, but not all escape power outages

By on August 31, 2011

By: ANGELA KEITH Review Staff, Staff Writer

The small river which formed across the road before the bridge on Royer Road in Ephrata Township inspired this passer-by to slip and slide across Sunday after Hurricane Irene left its mark on the area. (Photo by Stan Hall)The small river which formed across the road before the bridge on Royer Road in Ephrata Township inspired this passer-by to slip and slide across Sunday after Hurricane Irene left its mark on the area. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Though there is contention over whether Hurricane Irene’s damage was as bad as expected, most Ephrata residents do agree on one thing — they are grateful for the hard work of those who assisted in minimizing destruction during the weekend storm.

Tim Zimmerman, superintendent of Ephrata Borough’s electric division, anticipated significant damage but was pleasantly surprised.

"We didn’t have more than 934 power outages at once," he said. "And most of those were only for a few hours."

Zimmerman attributes this low number of power outages to the borough’s "aggressive" maintenance and tree-trimming programs, which help to reduce the number of power outages that occur because of dead tree branches being ripped off and blown into lines.

Despite borough workers’ preparations, however, some outages did occur, mostly due to the strength of Hurricane Irene. These outages were tended to by borough crews who worked 12-hour days, many starting at 2 a.m. on Sunday.

Zimmerman is pleased with his crews’ performance.

"We have a good group of men that went out and did their job and did it in a timely and safe manner," he said. "I’m very proud of them."

Ephrata Borough Chief of Police William Harvey shared Zimmerman’s appreciation of the hard work that went on in the Ephrata area.

"People have the tendency to forget that (emergency responders are) out there braving the elements rather than being home," Harvey said. "Numerous hours were contributed by fire police, fire fighters and EMS. We’re very thankful to have a fantastic emergency service volunteer base supporting us."

Chief Harvey and other members of the Ephrata Borough Police Department teamed up with county EMA, borough and township assets and PennDOT to divert traffic and put up barricades due to flooding. They also checked on homes where water was rising in case they needed to ask residents to evacuate.

There were also many citizens assisting each other, which, according to Harvey, "lessened the impact."

No amount of hard work can completely withstand Mother Nature, however, and the storm did bring significant consequences. More than 60,000 of PPL’s commercial and residential customers in Lancaster County suffered power outages, and 880 of those customers were still without electricity as of Tuesday evening.

"We are fully committed to the difficult work before us," reported a PPL press release issued Monday night. "Delivering electricity and providing quality service is our business, and we sincerely thank (our customers for their) patience and understanding."

Patience and understand truly were required as area residents dealt with the frustrations of not having air-conditioning, refrigerators or other modern conveniences.

Dave Neff, of Mohler Church Road, was one such frustrated customer.

"It’s been interesting," he said. "I think everybody understands there was a lot of damage with this storm, and unfortunately for us we were the ones who were inconvenienced."

Friends and neighbors who did have power were kind enough to help out Neff’s family, making room in their freezers so that Neff’s food wouldn’t go bad. Other friends allowed Neff’s son, who is a high school senior, to sleep over at their house and get a shower before the first day of school.

Still, Neff and his family decided to spend Monday night at the Hampton Inn.

"We were at the point where the hot water was gone, and I love my family dearly, but we were running out of things to talk about," Neff laughed. "The worst was definitely not having the TV and the Internet. The silence can be killer."

Another consequence of the bad weather was a substantial drop in church attendance. Carol Bowman, congregational administrator at Ephrata Church of the Brethren, reported that attendance was down approximately 50 percent on Sunday, and less than 25 percent of Bethany UCC’s congregation made it to morning services, according to a church representative. More HURRICANE, page A18

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