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 (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 , .

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 and 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 if they need assistance during the power outage, and other local fire companies--including , and --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  were cancelled, and the district reported on its website that athletics and other activities could be affected as well.

The 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.

Mark Albright October 31, 2011 at 11:50 AM
As of 7:15 am Monday, power was restored along a portion of Main Street from Exit 67 up to Thomas. Traffic lights and other signage are working again up to that point, though it wasn't clear to me if the 7-11's power was on when I drove past. Vassi's, Frey's, Falk Funeral Home, The Crossroads, CVS, and Saucon Valley Manor all show lighted exterior signage.
Josh Popichak (Editor) October 31, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Thanks for the update, Mark. That's definitely some welcome good news.
Thomas Rieger October 31, 2011 at 01:12 PM
As of 9am A decision on tonight's Borough Council Meeting will be made later today. The SV Compost Center is open to residents who wish to drop of brush from the storm. Please check back here and the borough website for updates.
Mary Anne Looby October 31, 2011 at 02:01 PM
I think it is time for LST to start dealing with the old trees in the area. At the back of our property in what I believe is LST land or right of way, are dead trees, crooked trees from crowding and it is a real mess. These trees are all up in the power lines. Anyone of them could have come down and damaged our home and property. I would love to have them all cut down since they are either dead or black walnuts which kill everything that grows under them. Years ago LST had a company come through and trim the trees back, but it has been years since I have seen that done. PPL has said that power will be restored in our area at 1:30 today, however yesterday they also said it would be 1:30 and the night before they said 5PM. So we just have to wait it out and throw out the food.
Josh Popichak (Editor) October 31, 2011 at 02:48 PM
@Allan Bach - Thanks for uploading a photo! If anyone else has photos they'd like to share, please feel free to upload them to the gallery.
Josh Popichak (Editor) October 31, 2011 at 03:30 PM
FYI: The Hellertown Borough Council budget meeting scheduled for 6pm Monday has been postponed until Thursday at 6pm due to the power outage in Hellertown.
Heather Youse October 31, 2011 at 04:26 PM
PPL states that power sholud be restored in the Mountainview area by 1:30 am.
Mary Anne Looby October 31, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Latest update for West Point Drive area is 4PM today, 10/31/11. We can hope!
Mary Anne Looby October 31, 2011 at 04:49 PM
That's off Bingen in LST
Mary Anne Looby October 31, 2011 at 05:12 PM
Everyone of the trees lining 378 in front of the old Superfresh are broken. What a shame!
Josh Popichak (Editor) October 31, 2011 at 05:15 PM
@Mary Anne Looby - Thanks for uploading your photos of the snow (very pretty). I also saw the broken trees by the shopping center on 378 and it is sad. They broke like matchsticks under the weight of the snow. Fingers crossed that you get power back around 4pm.
Josh Popichak (Editor) October 31, 2011 at 06:12 PM
We've just posted a couple of important updates regarding local road closures and power outages. Please check them out!
Priscilla deLeon October 31, 2011 at 06:56 PM
thanks Josh for posting!!!!
Mary Anne Looby October 31, 2011 at 09:43 PM
WFMZ reported that two poles 80 and 85 feet were knocked out on South Mountain. These poles are part of the large lines that run up the mountain. Representative from PPL said this line controls the Seidersville, Bingen, Coopersburg and part of Quakertown grid. The big problem is getting the poles up the mountain on a 40 ton truck. We've been pushed back to 11PM tonight. Have heard that other areas might be back on by Thursday.
Josh Popichak (Editor) November 01, 2011 at 12:06 AM
I've just posted another update with some information gathered from our Facebook page, where Saucon Valley residents have been letting us know when the power's back on.
Josh Popichak (Editor) November 01, 2011 at 12:22 AM
SCHOOL ANNOUNCEMENT: Red Door Early Learning Center in Hellertown will be CLOSED on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Mary Anne Looby November 01, 2011 at 12:30 AM
Thanks for the updates Josh. Hickory Hill runs behind our property, but our cul de sac comes off of Bingen RD. Don't know if it affects us.
Mary Anne Looby November 01, 2011 at 12:32 AM
If anyone has the # for PPL would you please post it. I accidently deleted it from my cell:-( THANKS!!!!
Josh Popichak (Editor) November 01, 2011 at 12:37 AM
Here it is: 1-800-342-5775 (1-800-DIAL-PPL).
Mary Anne Looby November 01, 2011 at 01:23 AM
Mister Y November 01, 2011 at 01:59 PM
Will everyone please take a few minutes and refresh yourselves with the Pa. Driver's Manual: 1. An intersection controlled by traffic lights that has lost power shall now be treated as a STOP SIGN INTERSECTION. 2. ALL SNOW MUST MUST MUST be cleared from your vehicle including the roof, hood and trunk. 3. ALL of your vehicles lighting (daytime running lights DO NOT COUNT) shall be activated in inclement weather requiring the use of winshield wipers.
Mary Anne Looby November 01, 2011 at 09:44 PM
@Mr.Y, good advice, if only people would follow it! Power restored at 7:45PM last night. Verizon back on at 5PM today. A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL THE LINEMEN WHO WORKED SO HARD TO GET POWER RESTORED. YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE GRATEFUL TO YOU!
Josh Popichak (Editor) November 01, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Well said, Mary Anne. Without the work of the linemen -- who've come here from as far away as Tennessee -- we'd all be in the dark a long time. Because fixing the power grid is not a 'DIY' job. I know their work isn't finished yet, but I'm sure they'll be relieved when they can go home to their families after a job well done.


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