County Survives Superstorm Sandy
Throughout the weekend and into Monday, Fulton County residents prepared themselves for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy and the torrential rain, flooding and high winds that were forecasted to accompany her. Much to the relief of many, however, the storm fell short of its predictions with some residents experiencing only temporary loss of electricity or telephone.
McConnellsburg resident Erica Doyle may have been frugal with her budget allotment of only $15 for preparations, but she was not alone in the spent significant amount of time she spent over the weekend preparing for the arrival of the storm that weather forecasters dubbed “Frankenstorm.”
Doyle told the “News” she dried beans as well as split peas, canned them and went on to bake two batches of cornbread and granola bars for herself and hubby Kenny. Knowing the area could be facing power outages, Doyle also dug into her frozen stash of deer meat and made jerky in the event she was unable to cook for lack of power.
Doyle stated she charged her portable DVD player for entertainment purposes and doublechecked her ample supply of flashlights, batteries, candles and cans of fuel that she typically uses for catering events. She also had a backup plan in place to stay with Bert and Jennifer Hann because the Doyles reside in a low spot prone to flooding.
Some residents were not as lucky in obtaining their emergency rations. Even though the shelves at Giant Food Store in McConnellsburg were wellstocked with milk, bread and other nonperishable rations, shelving that once contained certain items such as size C and D batteries were empty. Additional staples such as diesel and propane were reportedly selling out at locations across the county.
Hustontown resident Ken Keebaugh waited out the storm reminiscing about his time pumping gasoline at the former Esso station at the Sideling Hill Plaza of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Keebaugh said in 1972 when Hurricane Agnes hit the area the station was full service and there was no roof to cover the gas pumps.
In buckling down for Sandy, Keebaugh admitted he had done little in terms of preparation. Af- ter taking down an outdoor canopy, he picked up a loaf of bread and some lunchmeat. Keebaugh also said he filled around a dozen plastic jugs with water and was finished up some laundry Monday morning. “I still have a functioning hand water pump and outhouse, but hope to keep their usage as childhood memories only. If the electricity stays off, I can write up 30 years of genealogy research the old fashioned way on yellow note pads,” he added.
The National Weather Service forecasted between one and two inches of precipitation Monday and an additional two to three inches Monday night. Tuesday, forecasters had predicted new rain fall of between three quarters and one inch. High winds remained a major concern throughout Tuesday morning, and wind gusts were estimated at around 55 miles per hour.
Meanwhile, also on Monday, the Turnpike and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation urged motorists to continue checking on roadway conditions by calling 5-1-1 in the the event they must travel during the intense storm or by checking online at www.511PA.com. The service is free and available 24 hours a day and alerts drivers to warnings, weather forecasts and suggested traffic speeds.
“Travelers who must be on the roadways should be sure that they have an emergency kit packed in their vehicles. A basic kit should include nonperishable food, water, blanket, small shovel and warm clothes,” said PennDOT safety press officer Pam Kane. “When preparing an emergency kit, motorists should take into account special needs of passengers such as baby food, pet supplies or medications and pack accordingly.”
Power companies also prepared for worst-case scenarios as Hurricane Sandy continued its move up the East Coast. FirstEnergy utilities, including West Penn Power, began mobilizing employees over the weekend to help aid the restoration process if the storm causes power outages this week. In fact, West Penn employees were already on scene near the Central Fulton School District Monday mid-morning to help with a water main break.
Central Fulton, Forbes Road, Southern Fulton and the Fulton County Community Christian School closed their doors to students Monday, and follow-up announcements also resulted in closed operations Tuesday and a two-hour delay Wednesday.
As Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett had already declared a statewide disaster emergency in advance of the storm that was a “hurricane inside of a nor’easter,” county Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director Ruth Strait remained vigilant and in constant contact with local fire and EMS, township EMA coordinators and various officials at the state and federal level to monitor the situation.
Strait stated Sunday evening a conference call regarding the impending storm was conducted and the McConnellsburg, Needmore and Hustontown fire chiefs as well as the county commissioners were in attendance.
In addition, she had been in contact with the Cumberland County 911 Center in order to determine how dispatching of emergency calls will be handled. She added Fulton Countyís back-up Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was partially staffed as of Monday morning.
Brochures were distributed to Giant Food shoppers in their grocery bags, Strait said. The brochures outline emergency tips and suggestions residents should follow in light of the storm.
Plans were also in the works to establish an American Red Cross shelter in the county, according to the local EMA director. At 3 p.m. Monday, McConnellsburg High School opened its doors as a shelter for those in need of refuge from the storm. In the event residents required shelter, they were asked to bring along certain items such as prescription medicine, identification and valuable papers, toiletries, a change of clothing, blankets, pillows and/or sleeping bags and special items for children and infants, such as baby food and diapers .
The Red Cross reported as of Sunday night, more than 3,200 people stayed in 112 Red Cross shelters located in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland and Delaware.
As predicted, winds picked up Monday night and posed the biggest threat to area residents. Valley Rural Electric Cooperative, which services a portion of Fulton County, reported it began receiving notice of power outages mid-morning, and they continued to respond to down electric lines into the evening.
Winds and rain from the storm system system knocked tree limbs onto distribution lines in six counties of Valley’s service area, including
Fulton, Franklin, Blair, Huntingdon, Juniata and Mifflin. Approximately 300 individuals in Fulton County were affected at that time, and outages were reported at substation service areas in Clear Ridge, Route 30 and Harrisonville.
The number of Valley Rural Electric customers affected by Hurricane Sandy jumped nearly “five-fold” by Tuesday morning. In fact at 6 a.m., the number of outages peaked at 6,019 in Valley Rural’s overall coverage area. Three hundred sixty-eight customers remained without power here an hour later.
Around the same time, FirstEnergy reported over 10,000 West Penn Power customers remained without power as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
PennDOT’s only report following the wake of the storm was that Pigeon Cove Road remained closed to motorists due to a downed utility from the intersection of Alpine Road in Bethel Township to the intersection of Great Cove Road in Belfast Township.