Hurricane Irene stormed through our region late Saturday and into Sunday, unleashing pounding rain and whipping winds. Lehigh and Monroe counties were stomped, while Irene's skirts brushed Carbon and Schuylkill counties.
Police attribute three deaths on Sunday morning in our area to the storm. Jason Dahm of Hellertown apparently lost control of his vehicle on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, tumbling down an embankment and striking a utility pole.
On Sunday afternoon, Michael Sceranko died as he pushed his son out of the way of a falling tree on Clements Circle in East Stroudsburg. In Luzerne County, Richard Shotwell died when a tree crashed into his camper in a campground in Shickshinny.
In Carbon County, Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Nalesnik said power loss was the biggest problem Irene delivered. The county 911 and emergency operations centers used generator power for several hours Sunday. Nalesnik urged people to "be patient and give the utility company time to restore power. There are only so many people in the crews."
As of early Monday, the Giant grocery store in the Carbon Plaza mall in Mahioning Township began its second day with reduced power. The store is open but shoppers are limited to nonperishable goods, an employee said.
The storm, which churned up the East Coast over the weekend, is being blamed for at least 21 deaths in nine states, shutting down power for millions of people and causing at least $1 billion in damages.
Irene dumped 2.66 inches of rain in the Lehighton area as of 11 a.m. Sunday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Scheibe. In Monroe County, 5.3 inches of rain fell in the Mt. Pocono area, and wind gusted up to 54 mph, according to NWS.
Monroe County Emergency Management Agency called for a voluntary evacuation of residents of the Glenn Brook Apartments East in Snydersville. Fawn Valley Mobile Home Park and Hamilton Manor residents were also forced to flee. They were sheltered by the Red Cross at East Stroudsburg High School.
The trouble isn't over for Monroe County: The Delaware River is expected to crest at 25 feet today. Residents who live near the waterway are asked to pay attention to newscasts for advisories.
In Schuylkill County, roads were closed due to flooding in West Penn, where Route 309 was closed from Blue Mountain to the Lehigh County line, and in East Brunswick, New Castle, North Manheim, Washington and Hubley townships, and Pine Grove and Cressona boroughs and the city of Pottsville.
In what PPL Electric Utilities described as the second worst storm in the company's history, Irene pulled trees out of sodden ground and felled limbs that dragged down power lines.
At 8:45 a.m. Sunday, a total of 189,081 PPL customers were out of service, most of them in Lancaster County. A total of 3,048 customers were out in Carbon County, most of those in Mahoning and Franklin townships. In Schuylkill County, 15,825 customers remained out of service.
By 5 p.m. Sunday, a total of 228,029 PPL customers were out of power, including 15,515 in Schuylkill County, 20,892 in Monroe and 2,679 in Carbon. Lehigh County was walloped, with close to 50,000 PPL customers without power as of Sunday evening.
PPL Electric Utilities worked around the clock over the weekend to restore power to more than 153,000 customers. As of 5 a.m. today, 123,000 customers remained without service. They include 3,064 in Carbon County, mostly in Lower Towamensing Township; 16,495 in Monroe County, mostly in Stroud Township, and 7,022 in Schuylkill County, mostly in Pine Grove Township.
The electric company, which declared a storm emergency at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, had called in extra workers in anticipation of widespread outages. They are being dispatched "based on the number of customers affected, with priority given to any case involving a public safety or health facility," according to a news release.
It's not clear when power will be restored to particular areas.
Further complicating matters, on Sunday afternoon, PPL had technical problems with its customer contact center and online outage reporting function, making it difficult for people to report outages.
Irene flooded many roads. As of 7:30 a.m. today, Lower Smith Gap Road between Blue Mountain Drive and the Monroe County line in Lower Towamensing Township were closed due to flooding. In Monroe County, Hollow Road between River Road in Smithfield Township and Frutchey Drive in Middle Smithfield Township; Fiddletown Road/Weir Mountain Road/Gilbert Road between Meixsell Valley and Church roads in Eldred Township; remain closed.
Also closed were Marshalls Creek Road between the Pike County Line and Route 402 in Middle Smithfield Township; Kuhenbeaker Road between Route 115 and Hypsie Gap Road in Tunkhannock Township; Route 191 between Route 447 and Wooddale Road in Stroud Township; Route 314 between Lower Swiftwater Road in Paradise Township and Route 715 in Pocono Township; Route 940 between Route 115 and Sir Bradford Road in Tobyhanna Township; and Lower Swiftwater Road between Bush Road and Route 191 in Paradise Township.
Although Irene wrought havoc, the storm pales in comparison to the massive destruction dealt by Hurricane Katrina, which struck six years ago, killing 1,836 people and wiping out 80 percent of New Orleans.
Here are reports from area muncipalities and townships on the storm:
There was some widespread power outages in Albrightsville and Lake Harmony, but power was reported back on this morning.
"The most serious concern were the new lights in Albrightsville," said Kidder Township manager John Finnerty, referring to lights at the intersection of Route 534 and Route 903.
The intersection was manned by Penn Forest Fire Police, the Albrightsville Volunteer Fire Company, and the Kidder Township Police Department, who directed traffic. Eventually the township put up stop signs at the intersection.
Finnerty said between that issue, and trees falling on power lines, firemen were kept busy.
Flooding did not pose any serious threats in Kidder, unlike the remnants of Hurricane Ivan in September of 2004, which flooded sections of Route 903 and washed out a historic bridge over Mud Run Creek.
"Fortunately, we only got five inches instead of the 10 we could have gotten. We had five and eight inches last year," said Finnerty. "We had minor flooding, nothing out of the ordinary, surprisingly."
He said people living in low-lying areas had been notified, and had either evacuated or kept watch on rising water.
Penn Forest Township
Damage from the storm was very minor. As of this morning, the only remant of Hurricane Irene was a downed electric pole and lines near the corner of Behrens Road and Midway Drive, said Lynn Humphries, township secretary/treasurer.
The road was still blocked this morning, as the power line remained in the roadway.
Power was never lost anywhere, but the borough did experience some flooding in the 800 and 900 blocks of Delaware Avenue. That area remained closed as of this morning.
People who live near the Aquashicola Creek were evacuated when the waterway rose, said Carbon County Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Nalesnik. The people were sheltered at borough hall until the water went down.
"It created a problem, but it receded pretty quickly," Nalesnik said.
Borough Secretary Kira Michalik said the borough office received no reports of major damages although Ludlow Park had some downed branches, a small tree near the Little League field was partially uprooted and some trees near the cemetery had minimal damages.
While the borough office received no reports of power loss, as of early this morning PPL's website showed 21 residents without power in the borough, indicating the outage was in the vicinity of Mountaintop Road.
Hurricane Irene's high winds causes downed trees and power lines that resulted in widespread power outages in Schuylkill County but fortunately, Tamaqua escaped flooding or any long-term power outages.
The sustained 30-50 MPH winds from the storm, which tore numerous branches off trees, caused some power disruption. Power was restored to residents at 5:30 a.m. today.
A canal lock spillway collapsed Sunday due to its age and heavy rains. It was Lock #23 at the Walnutport Canal Locktenders house, which is the first lock south of the Slatington bridge.
West Penn Township
A West Penn Township firefighter, whose name was not released, was hurt as he helped clean up a tree that had fallen on a road.
Township secretary Sandra Gaumer said that the Franklin Township road crew was working this morning clearing trees that had come down from the storm.
Township manager Dave Albright, says the township transfer station has no power and is closed. About 850 people were without power on Sunday with many trees reported down.
Supervisor Nancy May says a resident of Beltzville Road reported that many trees were on lines and that the residents of that area are without power. She was told it might not be restored until Sept. 1.
Supervisor Sharon Solt reported a tree down on Fiddletown Road that caused the road to be closed Sunday and Clair Borger, supervisor and roadmaster reported about 20 trees down in the township which road crews were able to clear Sunday.