Government
9:43 am
Tue October 30, 2012

Worst of Sandy Passes, 2,300 in Allegheny County Without Power

UPDATE: Tue, 7:36am

The strong winds and heavy rains passed through western Pennsylvania overnight leaving minor flooding, downed trees and power outages in their wake.  Duquesne Light and FirstEnergy report a combined 2,300 customers without power in Allegheny County.  Another 3,400 are without service in hard-hit Fayette County and another 2,200 have no power in Somerset and Cambria County combined. Fayette County was especially hard hit with FirstEnergy reporting 4,400 out of power.  Statewide more than 1.2 million are without electricity.

More rain is expected today and flood warnings continue with some area rivers not expected to crest until midweek.  Temperatures in Pittsburgh will hover in the mid to lower 40’s for most of the day with more rain and wind gusts topping 30 miles per hour, however the wind advisory has been canceled.

Reovery will take time

Cleanup crews are heading out in force across the region and the state.  Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has told all non-emergency staff to stay home today and has closed most city offices.  However, garbage pickup will continue as normal today.  Allegheny County has opened its Emergency Operations Center and has declared a disaster emergency to allow for a faster flow of clean up help.  Pittsburgh Public schools are closed, as are most of the suburban districts and private schools.

State offices are also closed today including state appellate courts. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is recommending that residents impacted by the storm get the latest information on the state’s emergency efforts by going to the commonwealth’s website.

FirstEnergy Spokesperson Scott Surgeoner says crews have been called in from other states as far away as New Mexico to deal with the power outages.  He said winds were too high overnight for crews to get up on the poles to do work, which has slowed repairs.  The darkness also hindered assessment efforts making it too early to tell how long it will take to restore power to every customer.  Surgeoner estimates it will be a day or two to get to everyone in southwestern Pennsylvania and a week or more to deal with the hardest hit areas in the east.

Travel slowly returns to normal

PennDOT says major arteries in western Pennsylvania are open but is restricting travel in other parts of the state because of downed trees, power lines and flooding.  Most of those state highway closures are in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Speed limits reduced to 45 miles per hour on highways in central and eastern Pennsylvania, including all or portions of: I-81, I-78, I-176, I-80, I-380.  The latest travel information can be found by calling 511 or by visiting the state's travel information website

First responders are reminding motorists to never drive into a flooded area or onto a closed road. Pennsylvania law imposes fines up to $500 plus emergency response costs on motorists who drive past "road closed" signs.

Thousands of Pennsylvanians were forced from their homes

Officials from one end of the state to the other are asking residents to stay off the roads if possible today to allow clean up crews to do their work.  For those who are in need of emergency shelter, the American Red Cross has set up a website or the information can be sent in to a cell phone by texting "shelter" and your zip code to 43362.

Sandy took the lives of three Pennsylvanians including one in southwestern Pennsylvania.  State police say a driver "lost control of the vehicle on snow/slush covered roads" in Upper Turkeyfoot Township in Somerset County last night.  Officials are naming neither the passanger nor the driver.  The car reportedly slid off a snowy, slushy road and overturned into a pond. Further to the east, an 8-year-old Susquehanna County boy who died when a tree limb fell on him in Franklin Township.  In Berks County, a 62-year-old man was killed after a tree fell atop his house in Pike Township near Boyertown. A man trimming a tree in preparation for the storm fell and died Sunday in Rapho Township, Lancaster County. An infant was slightly injured when a tree fell on a house in Upper Darby in Delaware County on Monday.

Allegheny County and its social service providers are trying to help those dealing with emotional issues during the aftermath of the storm. Residents in need of support are encouraged to call 412-482-3250. The state has launched a similar effort.  Anyone in need of help can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990, or text 'TalkWithUs' to 66746.  If the situation involves the risk of physical harm calls should be made to 9-1-1.

Tuesday's absentee ballot application deadline is extended for a day or two for counties where courthouses were closed Monday, Tuesday, or both.