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EMA: Learn lesson from last snowstorm

Published March 07. 2018 06:28AM

Here we go again.

The Monroe County Emergency Management Agency posted that message on Facebook on Tuesday in anticipation of another round of the winter punch.

“Lessons should have been learned from this past weekend,” the post continues.

“Stay off the roads so the plow trucks can clear them. Limit driving on Wednesday for emergencies only.”

Monroe County Control Center Director of Communications Gary Hoffman said, “Last weekend thousands of people and vehicles were stranded on local roadways in Monroe County. Between Friday morning at 7 a.m. and midnight on Sunday we received 4,561 calls.”

“That was an average of 70 calls per hour, 24 hours per day,” Hoffman said. “There were 2,579 incident calls, which are referred to as ‘Calls for service.’ The police responded to 2,046 calls, fire responded to 273 calls and emergency medical service responded to 260 calls.”

“That number of fire calls is equivalent to three or four months for the county.”

Hoffman said that on a typical Friday or Saturday night the center is staffed with a supervisor and four operators.

“We had 18 operators and two supervisors on per shift throughout the storm and we are gearing up our schedule right now for Wednesday.”

According to Hoffman by midnight on Sunday the communications center had expended over 225 hours of overtime. The estimated cost of the weekend storm is $10,300 for the center.

Monroe County Commissioner John Christy spent 12 hours at the center on Saturday with four other volunteers taking nonemergency calls.

“For 12 hours every time you hung up the phone, it would ring again,” Christy said.

Christy added that this storm was unique in that the huge drop in barometric pressure caused the dramatic cyclone effect that dumped heavy, wet snow quickly on the area. That heavy snow took down weakened trees and power lines, causing power outages and disruptions to traffic.

“Up on the plateau it dumped 2 feet. In town we saw a foot and as cars were traveling from the lower elevations into the higher elevations like where Routes 80 and 380 meet, the temperatures were dropping and all you need is one or two cars to get stuck trying to get up the hill or a tractor-trailer to jackknife and it’s over,” Christy said.

“We were getting calls from people who were stranded in their cars, many from outside the area asking us what to do.”

Christy said that the best advice they could give was to tell people to hunker down and to keep the tailpipes clear and wait for assistance. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation crews were delivering gas to cars that were stranded to help keep them running for the occupants could stay warm.

Christy said that by Saturday morning Monroe County, along with Carbon and Pike counties had made a disaster declaration in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Emergency Management.

As a result the National Guard was called in from East Stroudsburg and Scranton. Christy said they were sent up to the Walmart Distribution Center in Tobyhanna to pick up water and snacks and they delivered them to those stuck in their vehicles.

“When daylight came, fire companies sent out their volunteers to help as well,” Christy added. “The people here always rise to the occasion and lend a hand. I am proud to represent these people.”

Christy added that the hardest-hit areas of Monroe County were Smithfield, Middle Smithfield and Hamilton townships. Many residents in those areas are still without power due to the large number of trees that are still down in the roadways.

Chestnuthill Township in the West End of Monroe still had 79 residents without power as of Tuesday night. According to the PPL website, the power was estimated to be restored by Wednesday.

Township Manager Dave Albright said that the township’s emergency manager had reported all of the areas of concern to the Monroe County Control Center.

Parts of Merwinsburg Road, Village Edge Drive and Ridgeway Drive are still closed as a result of trees on wires across the roadway.

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