Saucon Valley Darkened by Rare Autumn Snowstorm
Practically all of Hellertown Borough and Lower Saucon Township were in the dark late Sunday, almost 24 hours after an unusually early snowstorm caused tree limbs to snap, resulting in extensive damage to the local power grid.
UPDATE, 7:45pm: A number of Hellertown and Lower Saucon residents have reported the restoration of power on our Facebook page this evening. The following areas have lights back on according to posts added to the page: Second Avenue (Hellertown), Easton Road near Cherry Lane (Hellertown), Detweiler Avenue (Hellertown), west of Main Street near Braveheart Highland Pub (Hellertown), Society Hill (Lower Saucon), Hickory Hill area (Lower Saucon) and Easton Road near Lower Saucon Road (Lower Saucon). Via Twitter, PPL said tonight that it has 2,000 workers making repairs to damaged infrastructure. More than 23,000 Northampton County customers are still without power according to PPL's updated outage map. PPL is still estimating that some customers won't have power restored until Thursday or Friday. In an interview with WFMZ News Monday, PPL CEO David DeCampli called the amount of damage caused by Saturday's snowstorm "stunning" and said it exceeds what was caused by Hurricane Irene in August 2011.
UPDATE, 2:15pm: PPL currently has 22 line crews working in Hellertown and 14 crews working in Lower Saucon Township. The crews are hoping to bring some of the local power grid back online tonight. They are working on the substation and transmission lines. This information was supplied by Hellertown Borough Councilman Tom Rieger.
UPDATE, 2pm: Lower Saucon Township has posted a list of closed township roads on its website. The list includes Williams Church Road, Drifting Drive from Wassergass Road to County Line Road, Lower Saucon Road from Polk Valley Road to Springtown Hill Road, and many more. All of the closed roads are due to downed trees with power lines, which must be cleared by PPL personnel. For the complete list, visit www.lowersaucontownship.org. Township offices are currently without heat, electricity and Internet, however phones are reportedly working. Anyone with a fire, medical or police emergency in either Hellertown or Lower Saucon Township should call 911. Non-emergency calls should be made to the Northampton County call center at 610-759-2200.
In what must seem like an eerie case of deja vu for residents, life in the Saucon Valley has once again been brought to a standstill by a freak weather event that's caused widespread damage to the local power grid.
It was just two months ago that Hurricane Irene's strong winds caused major damage to utility poles and lines, leaving thousands in the dark for days.
The Oct. 29 storm that blanketed the Saucon Valley with more than six inches of wet snow lacked Irene's gusty winds, but the weight of the snow on tree branches still covered in leaves has caused as much devastation--if not more--than the August storm.
All throughout Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township trees and tree limbs are strewn across roads and yards, sidewalks are covered with leaves and debris, and traffic lights are not functional.
Even busy intersections such as Cherry Lane and Main Street in Hellertown and Route 378 and Black River Road in Lower Saucon were without traffic lights on Sunday afternoon.
Almost all local businesses were closed on Sunday as a result of the widespread power outage, which PPL is blaming in part on the loss of 10 major transmission lines that serve approximately 80,000 customers in the area.
Late Sunday, PPL tweeted that power had so far been restored to 158,000 customers, but about 155,000 remained in the dark throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, with the Lehigh Valley one of the areas hardest hit.
More than 10,000 Lower Saucon customers remained without power and most--if not all--of Hellertown was still in the dark as of Sunday evening.
PPL also reported via its Twitter page that crews from as far away as Tennessee and Indiana are arriving to help restore electricity to the areas affected by the storm.
"We understand it's frustrating to not have power," the company said. "We are bringing all the resources we can gather to the restoration work."
In the Saucon Valley, major roads were generally passable, but some side streets remained blocked by fallen tree limbs, and local parks such as Borough Authority Park and Dimmick Park in Hellertown were disaster areas, with fallen tree limbs practically everywhere.
Seidersville Road near Route 378 in Lower Saucon Township was temporarily closed Sunday afternoon due to a downed tree, as were portions of Flint Hill Road (south of Route 412) and Bingen Road. A portion of Constitution Avenue in Hellertown was also closed Sunday, while borough public works employees cleared debris.
Hellertown Borough Councilman Tom Rieger said Sunday that borough residents should call Dewey Fire Company if they need assistance during the power outage, and other local fire companies--including Steel City, Southeastern and Se-Wy-Co--were also standing by, ready to help.
Nevertheless, many residents opted to leave their homes in order to stay with friends or family members, as PPL estimates for the restoration of power varied from one to several days.
The temperature Monday morning was forecast to dip to a frosty 25 degrees, and others said they planned to stay in hotels in order to have heat and access to much-needed electricity.
As a result of the power outage, all Monday classes at the Saucon Valley School District were cancelled, and the district reported on its website that athletics and other activities could be affected as well.
The Hellertown Borough Council budget meeting scheduled to be held at 6pm Monday night in Borough Hall might have to be held by candlelight if the power isn't restored by that time, Rieger said.
Meanwhile, the flow of information to many residents affected by the loss of power slowed to a trickle, with some turning to popular social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter to keep up-to-date on the progress of repairs to local infrastructure.
According to an AP story published on the Huffington Post, more than 3 million residents and businesses in the Northeast were without power in the wake of the monster storm, which is now credited with giving the Lehigh Valley its snowiest October ever.
Officially, 6.8 inches of snow fell at Lehigh Valley International Airport, shattering an October snowfall record that dated to 1925.