On the eve of the one-year anniversary of last year's infamous October snowstorm, the Saucon Valley is once again preparing for what could prove to be an epic weather event.
The Borough of Hellertown issued a statement Friday in which it said local emergency management officials are monitoring the weather forecast, while the public works department "has begun mitigation efforts" against the threats of "damaging winds, heavy rainfall, major flooding along streams and rivers and flash flooding."
Both the Saucon Creek and Silver Creek in Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township are flood-prone waterways, and the Saucon Creek has become a barrier to east-west transit in Lower Saucon Township during recent floods.
"All available resources will be activated or are on standby," Hellertown officials said Friday, and the following reminders were issued for residents:
- In anticipation of high winds, please take in or secure any item not fastened such as planters, garbage cans and site amenities.
- Public Works will be picking up leaves throughout the weekend. Residents are asked not to rake leaves into the streets and keep storm drains clear of any debris. If your property has a storm drain in the immediate vicinity, monitor it closely for leaf accumulation and rake leaves away from the drain.
- Use sandbags to minimize the impact of flooding
- Don’t drive through flooded roadways. Barricades are in place for your safety.
- Monitor the Borough’s web site at www.hellertownborough.org, Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HellertownBorough and follow us on Twitter @hellertownboro for updates.
- Sign up for e-mail alerts on the Borough’s website.
- If you haven’t already done so, contact the Hellertown Authority at 610-838-8051 to sign up for All-Call alerts. This system allows for important announcements directly to your home phone or cell phone.
- Go to www.nc911.org to sign up for important notices from Northampton County.
Borough councilman Tom Rieger, who coordinates much of the borough's social media presence, urged residents who are not already doing so to follow the borough on Facebook and Twitter, where he said "more frequent updates will be posted."
It was also announced that the Dewey Fire Co. Social Hall will open as a comfort station in the event of an emergency declaration by Mayor Richard Fluck.
The shelter's generator was recently upgraded to provide the building with heat in the event of a major power outage, which Lower Saucon officials said residents should be prepared for.
The township issued an advisory for local residents Friday that included information about flood-prone areas, and urged residents to avoid them during the storm.
If necessary, barricades will be erected along the following roadways that are known to flood, the township said:
- Meadows Road at the Route 412 intersection
- Reading Road at Creek View/Old Mill
- Skibo Road/Walnut Street
- Friedensville Road/Water Street
- Route 412 at Polk Valley Road
- Bingen Road at Reading Drive
- Lower Saucon Road at Easton Road and Apple Street
Per a new state law, motorists who ignore a barricade will be subject to charges and a fine, the township advisory indicated.
Residents were also urged to prepare an emergency kit, create an emergency plan, and stay informed via local media and the township's website.
If emergency shelters are opened in Lower Saucon their location will be posted on the township website.
The following preparations have been undertaken by the Lower Saucon Public Works Department and the Lower Saucon Police Department, officials said:
- Public Works has been out for the past week clearing debris from storm water inlets and pipes.
- Public Works will be staging their crewmen on both the east and west sides of the Saucon Creek prior to the storm, so they can respond quickly to any reports of downed trees.
- Public Works will be staging their equipment either at their homes or at locations on both sides of the Saucon Creek to be able to respond quickly to road closures, downed trees, etc.
- Public Works has borrowed their old aerial truck from the Saucon Valley School District to supplement their new truck, and the department will have one truck staged on both sides of the Saucon Creek.
- The back-up generator for the Township building has sufficient fuel in case of power outages.
- Police Department Patrol teams will be at full staff, with increased patrols.
- The Police Department will schedule their Utility and AWD cruisers on the east and west sides of the township with the flexibility for Patrol Team officers to remain on both sides of the township at shift changes.
- The Police Department cruisers will be supplied with cones to place at high water areas.
- Provisions for re-fueling vehicles on the east side of the Saucon Creek have been made.
Northampton County's director of emergency services, Bob Mateff, said the county is advising all of its municipalities to be prepared for the storm by taking steps such as cleaning out drains and making sure generators are charged.
His staff is working with utilities PPL and First Energy, as well as LANTA, to make preparations, and the county will increase staff at its 911 center during the storm and set up an emergency operations center on Monday.
Mateff cautioned residents to pay attention to weather forecasts, to make sure they have food, water and batteries on hand, and to consider early evacuation if they live in a flood-prone area.
In addition to local government, utilities are also bracing for a potentially devastating storm.
In a statement, PPL spokesman Joe Nixon said the utility "will bring to bear all available resources to respond to whatever impact Hurricane Sandy has on Pennsylvania and be fully staffed 24/7 beginning Monday."
Power crews from Kentucky could be arriving in the area as early as Sunday night, and crews in states as far away as Utah have been called for assistance.
"Since a year ago, on the heels of the October snowstorm, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, PPL Electric Utilities has made many improvements to better respond to major storms --in particular, upgrading customer service systems to ensure we can handle increased customer call volume and improving information available for customers," Nixon added.
To keep ahead of the storm, many local residents are turning to social media sites, including Facebook pages devoted to weather forecasting.
One popular Facebook page that specializes in forecasts for the Eastern Pennsylvania area is Eastern PA Weather Authority.
The Red Cross announced Friday that its 13 chapters in Northeast Pennsylvania are placing trained disaster workers, vehicles and supplies on alert throughout a 16-county region that includes Lehigh and Northampton counties.
"We’re also working in close collaboration with government officials and community partners to coordinate potential response efforts,” said Adrian Grieve, Red Cross regional emergency services officer for Northeast Pennsylvania. “We’re planning for the worst, and hoping for the best.”