Sandy barks more than bites here

By on October 31, 2012

By: TIFFANY WOODALL Review Staff Writer, Staff Writer

This large tree was toppled with a loud crash about 11:45 p.m. on Monday evening in the backyard of a residence on Sunset Avenue in Akron. The family, including five children, were sleeping in the basement for safety from the storm when the high winds toppled the tree and came within about 10 feet of striking the rear of the residence. (Photos by Les Martzall)

Although Subtropical Depression Sandy appeared rather uneventful here, more than 4,000 PPL Electric Utilities customers in The Review readership area lost power early this week, as reported on the provider’s website.

Cocalico School District Superintendent Dr. Bruce L. Sensenig said Adamstown Elementary remained closed Wednesday morning, despite the reopening of other District schools. While most local areas are serviced by PPL, Adamstown Borough is split between PPL and Met-Ed, a First Energy company.

"Unlike PPL, Met-Ed does not communicate with us on the details or even the expected time of completion," said Dr. Sensenig. "At this point, we have no information from Met-Ed on the situation."

Dave Gingrich, Cocalico High School football coach, was without power in his Reinholds home from 9 p.m. Monday until 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"Our whole development didn’t have it," said Gingrich, who has lived in the Village Hollow neighborhood for 14 years. "This is the most that we’ve had in the time that we’ve been over here."

Gingrich used a generator while waiting for power to be restored and was heading home from football practice Tuesday evening to tackle his flooded basement.

"It’s not fun stepping into an inch of water in the basement," he said. "I’m just thankful that (power) has been restored and we can get back to cleaning up our basement."

Eric Frees, assistant football coach at Ephrata High School, lost power in his Furnace Hills Road home at 5:30 p.m. Monday and was still without it as of Wednesday morning.

"I’m just worried about my freezer," he said. "I took one load of meat to my friend’s house, and the rest we stored in our freezer in the garage because it’s semi-chilly out there."

Frees and his wife, Jenn, enjoyed candlelight dinners during their blackout.

"Monday night we played cards, again with just candles, that was fun," he said. "Then yesterday we went to my mom’s and showered. We didn’t have (power) by 6, so I said, ‘That’s it, we’re going to my mom’s house.’"

Frees said his wife received an e-mail from PPL estimating that power would be restored by 11 p.m. Wednesday. When asked if he had a generator, he said "I will before the next storm comes."

About one third of Ephrata Township customers who had lost power during the storm had it restored by press time Wednesday.

"I was in the office all day (Tuesday) and we were not aware that there were power outages in the Township," said Steve Sawyer, Ephrata Township manager and zoning officer. "Last fall we had widespread outages, and there wasn’t anything we could do to speed up PPL."

The storm left Ephrata Borough relatively unscathed as well.

"The Borough faired very well with only very minor issues," said Borough Manager Bob Thompson. A small group lost power for less than an hour Monday night due to a tree falling, and seven others — four residential and three commercial — lost power until noon Tuesday, all in the northeast corridor (Ephrata mountain area) of town.

Thompson agreed that Ephrata Borough has a phenomenal record of not losing power for any length of time.

"I attribute a great deal of it to our proactive tree trimming program, which cuts down on the ‘nuisance’ issues," he said. "It also takes a certain amount of luck."

According to PPL reports, Denver Borough suffered widespread outages — more than 1,800 customers lost power. But Denver Borough Manager Mike Hession said those numbers likely reflect Denver addresses outside the borough itself.

"Denver Borough has a total of just under 1,400 parcels," he said, referring to the 1,855 "Denver Borough" customers listed still without power on PPL’s website. "Thus, since there are a large number of properties with Denver addresses that are located in the neighboring townships, it appears much more likely that it was these areas who suffered the power outages."

Upon touring the borough Monday night/early Tuesday morning Hession noticed that streetlights were functioning in every section and lights were on at many of the houses. During another tour Tuesday he only noticed one property where the service line was knocked down from the storm; however, the line was still attached and the property had power.

"The borough placed cones around the low line and contacted PPL to respond because of our concerns that a pedestrian could jump and touch the wire," he said.

As of Wednesday morning Hession had not received any calls or visits from Denver residents indicating that they lost power during the storm.

Some area residents who remained powerless by Tuesday resorted to alternate housing.

"We have several people here because of (power outages)," said Wilma Abreu, front desk associate at the Hampton Inn, Ephrata, but noted the hotel had plenty of rooms available.

According to Tom Natarian, director of borough operations in Ephrata, there hasn’t been a significant power outage in the borough since the freak snowstorm last October, which resulted in some areas losing power for less than three hours. He said there were no major system problems caused by Tropical Storm Lee.

Back in 2010 there was an issue sometime during the summer that had certain areas out for as much as six hours, said Natarian, but in his 23 years of service he can’t recall any time when power was out for longer than that. In fact, the Borough was recently designated a Reliable Public Power Provider by the American Public Power Association.

Ephrata Borough Manager Bob Thompson said the public works department was out cleaning storm drains and erecting barricades Monday in hopes of minimizing localized flooding, and the electric department was on call to handle any outages.

"Frankenstorm" warnings began late last week, encouraging residents in Sandy’s path to prepare for the worst. Then came the evacuation orders for coastal dwellers: severe weather from the Carolinas through New England forced many to board up their homes and head for higher ground.

Locals flocked to purchase emergency supplies of equipment and food, prepping for potential power outages. Mike Pfautz, store manager of Ace Hardware, located in the 1700 block of West Main Street, reported Monday afternoon that gas cans, lamp oil, flash lights, lanterns and propane cylinders were flying off the shelves.

"We could have sold a thousand generators if we would have had them," said Pfautz. "It’s been insane the last few days.

"We got in, this morning, about 10 o’clock, we got about 120 four-packs of the D batteries and sold them all in an hour and a half."

The store still has a 1,000-gallon propane filling station, which was replenished Monday morning. But the station would be useless without electricity.

"One thing that I would say about this storm, I appreciate the way the bulk of our customers have behaved over the past few days," added Pfautz. "When you have something like this, you run out of things, and some people get out-of-control angry when you run out of things, but for the most part people were well behaved for this storm, and I think that’s a credit to the people of Ephrata."

Chief William Harvey of the Ephrata Police Department reported Monday that police activated the Emergency Operations Center, headquartered in the department conference room downtown.

"Every municipality has an emergency operations plan," said Harvey. "This is something I’ve been doing for years."

His message pre-Sandy was "Turn around, don’t drown," encouraging motorists to avoid passages in the roadway with visible standing water. Harvey also reported that the police department was at a heightened level of readiness as of Friday, armed with a full staff and all equipment prepared for use.

Lancaster County public school districts elected to close Monday and Tuesday — Lancaster Catholic and Lancaster Mennonite took the same precautions.

Lily’s on Main did so, too. Owner Steve Brown canceled all Monday and Tuesday reservations prior to the start of the week. The Theater remained open, however, the Borough’s curfew would have prevented patrons from attending any shows past 9 p.m.

PennDOT reduced speeds Monday to 45 mph on several roadways including Routes 22/322, 30 and 283, as well as the Turnpike from New Jersey to Carlisle. reported that airlines canceled at least 8,600 flights by Monday, anticipating 5-10 inches of rainfall. While eastern Pennsylvania braced for flooding, western parts of the state waited expectantly for the predicted snow and blizzard conditions.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Hurricane Agnes, which dissipated into a tropical storm by the time it reached here. The Ephrata Review reported June 29, 1972 that Agnes struck the area June 21 of that year. The state was declared a national disaster area, and six covered bridges in Lancaster County were overtaken by flooding.

Agnes was considered the most destructive natural disaster in Pennsylvania history, but last year’s back-to-back Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee likely stripped Agnes of its title. Post-Sandy reports suggest that the Commonwealth wasn’t nearly as devastated by her effects as it was by the 2011 storms. More SANDY, page A4

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