Hurricane Sandy impacts region
While the rains and wind from Hurricane Sandy subsided in the Lehigh Valley, the financial and emotional toll continues.
Approximately 443,000 PPL Electric Utilities customers lost power due to downed limbs and lines resulting from the Oct. 29 storm. Met-Ed, another local utility company, had approximately 252,000 customers impacted by the storm.
PPL had 2,500 linemen working to restore power to the eastern part of the state. Another 1,500 workers from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Texas came to help restore power, said PPL President Greg Dudkin.
"About 300 of those workers are from our affiliate in Kentucky," Dudkin said, adding priority was given to critical care facilities such as hospitals when restoring power. Then, the company focused on larger concentrations of customers.
Dave Bonenberger, vice president of distribution operations for PPL, said the effort has been "immense, time consuming and labor intensive." In some places, equipment damage was severe.
"Crews are sometimes uncovering even more destruction as they arrive at troubled locations," Bonenberger said last week.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey and Congressman Charlie Dent, R-15th, met with top officials at PPL's Emergency Command Center in South Whitehall Township Oct. 31 to review the company's response to the power outages from the storm.
PPL Chairman and CEO Bill Spence said Hurricane Sandy was the second largest storm in PPL history.
"We have been provided with great assistance by state and federal agencies. This is the first time we have needed to work closely with all those resources to ensure we are doing everything we can to get everyone back on and safely," he said.
Spence said PPL employees traveled more than 16,000 miles between Oct. 30 and 31 to assess damages.
He said during a telephone call Oct. 30, President Barak Obama thanked the men and women in the industry for working so closely to bring all resources together and to make sure PPL was getting all the resources possible in Pennsylvania from the government.
Dent gave The Press a copy of a letter being sent to President Obama asking that Category B emergency protective measures and debris removal as part of pre landfall be added to the disaster declaration issued Oct. 29 for the Commonwealth.
"As you know, the Commonwealth's original request for an emergency declaration included a request for reimbursement for all emergency protective measures," the letter says. "The declaration of emergency, however, provided only for direct federal assistance."
Governor Tom Corbett declared a statewide disaster emergency for Pennsylvania Oct. 26 to enable state, county and municipal governments to respond effectively to the storm.
The proclamation authorized state agencies to use all available resources and personnel, as necessary, waiving the time-consuming bid and contract procedures.
Corbett issued the disaster proclamation based on the recommendation of Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and forecasts from the National Weather Service.
Staff at the state's Emergency Operations Center, located at PEMA headquarters in Harrisburg, monitored conditions statewide to assess conditions and coordinate any response necessary to support county and local officials in the affected areas.
The American Red Cross set up a shelter at Dieruff High School, Allentown, for residents of Lehigh and Northampton counties.
The site was pet friendly and allowed people to take showers and come in if they had no heat, water or food. The organization is currently mobilizing efforts for the harder hit areas in New Jersey and New York.
On Oct. 31 St. Luke's University Health Network reassured the public its patients were being well cared for during the hurricane. Eah hospital was fully staffed and supplied with food, water, linens and medical supplies for all patients and staff. St. Luke's Allentown Campus, Anderson Campus, Miners Campus, Quakertown Campus and Warren Campus operated with power fully intact. St. Luke's University Hospital-Bethlehem was powered by backup generators.
On Oct. 30, each of the hospitals instituted an Incident Command situation to handle potential power outages and issues related to the weather.
Before the storm, extra food, water and supplies from vendors were delivered, staffing and planning for overnight stays were established and facilities were prepared for all possibilities.
Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest and 17th St. remained on commercial power during the storm and afterward. Backup power was ready to go in the event power was lost at those two locations.
LVH-Muhlenberg in Bethlehem was on generator power from about 9 p.m. Oct. 29 until about 11:30 a.m. Oct. 30. Some services like the cancer center at LVH-M were closed Tuesday. It reopened on Wednesday. Cases were transferred to the Cedar Crest site as needed.
The Cedar Crest Professional Park across from the hospital in Salisbury was without power much of the week as were many of the community health centers. Information to alert patients about any closings/cancellations was posted in the banner on the website, lvhn.org, throughout the week.
More than 150 staff slept at the three hospital sites overnight Monday and Tuesday to ensure adequate staffing.