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Summer's fury

  • ANDY LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS A large tree has fallen at the entrance to the Lake Hauto club house and beach knocked down by last night's high winds.
    ANDY LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS A large tree has fallen at the entrance to the Lake Hauto club house and beach knocked down by last night's high winds.
Published July 08. 2011 05:03PM

A brief but violent thunderstorm last night tore down power lines, pelted the region with acorn-size hail, delivered dramatic lightning, and toppled trees.

The storm struck shortly before 10 o'clock with ferocious wind and heavy, horizontal rain.

Hardest hit were eastern Schuylkill County and western Carbon County.

By morning, there were numerous detours in place, including Route 54 at Tippett's Road in the Hauto area where trees and wires were down.

Route 902 at Mill Road near Strauss Valley Road also had a detour that continued into this morning because of a broken utility pole and fallen trees.

In Lansford, at the height of the storm, a transformer caught fire on Dock Street. One end of the street was closed to responding emergency units because of a fallen tree.

As of 9 a.m., there were still 202 customers of PPL Electric in Carbon County - most of them in Mahoning Township - and 12 in Rush Township, Schuylkill County, without electricity.

At the height of the storm, there were more than 8,000 customers of PPL that experienced electric outages throughout the region.

SR-54 was also shut down for hours due to heavy road debris fallen trees that took out power lines, blocking both directions of traffic.

One section of fallen trees stretched almost 200 feet.

Lake Hauto, which was still without power as of 9 a.m., appeared to suffer the most damage as blown debris could be seen strewn everywhere.

Many trees were snapped or uprooted by the winds, some landing on homes, cars and properties.

Rush Township Emergency Management Agency (REMA) also set up command center at the intersection of Lake Drive and Great Oaks Drive to keep everyone working together during the emergency.

REMA coordinator Lorraine Brill said there were no reports of serious injuries which temporarily stopped work in Lake Hauto as PPL said they expected to continue restoring power to each block of homes this morning.

The high number of fallen trees and power lines in Lake Hauto made it extremely hard for emergency responders to work safely and quickly remove debris from the roads.

Schuylkill Emergency Management Agency was also expected to be on scene this morning.

The damage was so intense that firefighters had to cut their way through fallen trees blocking many of the roads in order to reach smaller roads and homes.

Firefighters and Rush Township Police officers could be seen escorting residents through the fallen trees and debris to reach family members coming to assist them.

Quakake firefighter Todd Witkowski traversed the entire stretch of Lake Hauto checking homes since most roads were impassible.

Kathy and Cy Fulton, 255 Lake Drive in Lake Hauto, suffered heavy damage as a large 40-foot tree penetrated the top of their home, breaking glass and spreading debris everywhere.

Cy stated, "We lived here since 1973 and have never seen anything like this."

Rush Township supervisor Robert Leibensperger, who lives a short distance from Lake Hauto on SR-54, pointed out that the wind was so strong that the rain and hail traveled sideways.

As of this morning, hundreds of PPL customers, stretching from Ye Old Hauto Road all the way into parts of Carbon County on SR-54 were still without power.

Some homes may ebe without power until later today or early tomorrow.

Shawn Gilbert, Rush Township supervisor, stressed his appreciation to all the responding firefighters, police and fire police that responded to help. Responding to Lake Hauto were Rush Township Police, township workers, and firefighters from Hometown, Quakake, Nesquehoning, Tamaqua and others.

Fire Police from Hometown, Tamaqua, Quakake and Nesquehoning detoured traffic around SR-54 and in all areas of the development.

Ryan Township and Tamaqua Ambulances also responded.

In Lansford, a tree reportedly fell on a car on Bertsch Street. No injuries were reported.

The National Weather Service says there could be more thunderstorm activity this afternoon and evening.

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