Residents of the region are getting back to life as usual as they clean up after one of the worst storms in decades, Superstorm Sandy. As fleets of utility company vehicles moved out, the hard work for homeowners began.
The hurricane, which made landfall in the area last Monday night, left several hundred thousand people without power in Montgomery, Bucks, Berks and Lehigh counties. While few people never lost power, like the lucky residents of the 200 block of W. Sixth Street in East Greenville, the majority of people were without electricity for at least 12 to 24 hours.
People turned to area stores for necessary supplies, like generators, kerosene heaters and power cords for generators. At Ace Hardware in Pennsburg, while the store was without power, shoppers were greeted by employees with flashlights opening the automatic doors by hand last Tuesday morning.
“Our employees had flashlights, pencils and paper and we helped people the old-fashioned way,” explained store president and owner, Mike Mott. “People had needs. We call ourselves the helpful place and, in my opinion, under no circumstances do we close. We are a part of this community and we are here to serve the community.”
Mott said he purchased generators for people from as far away as Georgia and made sure to have D batteries, used largely in flashlights, on hand, despite most stores in the area selling out.
“Our team here jumped through hoops. We did everything in our power even though we were without power,” he said, noting at least 50 different people thanked his staff for being open.
Employees from Home City Ice, 131 Washington Street, East Greenville, also assisted residents without power by offering free ice last week. A company representative said Monday the company gave out several pallets of ice, much of which went to preserve the contents of residents’ refrigerators or freezers.
In Pennsburg and East Greenville, Halloween trick-or-treating was postponed from Wednesday night until Saturday night because of power outages. East Greenville enacted a curfew for the safety of its residents from 6 p.m. Oct. 31 until 6 a.m. Nov. 1, Borough Manager Jim Fry said.
Utility trucks from PPL, PECO and Met-Ed took to the streets throughout the week and into Monday to make needed repairs, assisted by numerous out-of-state companies. Workers from Pike Electric out of North Carolina were seen helping PPL Utilities around Pennsburg and Upper Hanover and Chain Electric employees, hailing from Mississippi, helped restore power to homes in Upper Salford and Marlborough, among other areas.
As of Monday morning, municipal officials reported several isolated power outages remained, including to the East Greenville Firehouse on Washington Street, which was powered by generator. Electricity was restored to the firehouse around 5 p.m. Monday and most remaining residents, many whom had trees fall on service wires to their homes, had power back by Tuesday, eight days after the storm.
“It was a little crazy around here,” said Cheryl Cooper of Marlborough of the power outage. “We luckily had a fireplace and burned wood for heat, but we never thought we would be without power for that long. You never think how much you miss heat and a hot meal.”
Red Hill borough offices didn’t regain phone and internet service until Tuesday night. Area restaurants were able to reopen as they regained power and were inspected by the Montgomery County Health Department.
Tree service companies like Gehringer, of Red Hill, have had their hands full with a plethora of service calls since the storm.
“It’s been very busy,” said owner Bob Gehringer of business. “We are out here from daylight to dusk, trying to get things safe for people. There are a lot of trees into houses, garages, wires…All in all people have been pretty resilient. Tuesday morning anyone with a chainsaw was out there chipping in. It was nice to see.”
Brian Walsh of Salix Springs Landscaping in Barto said his company, too, is putting in a lot of hours to clean up debris and felled trees.
“We got our first call Monday night already and easily I’d say we’ll have about a month of cleanup to keep us busy,” he said. “These were unexpected costs for a lot of people though, so we try to be very fair.”
Walsh advised anyone dealing with downed trees to ask for proof of insurance before hiring anyone for cleanup and to get any standing trees near a home looked at by a certified arborist for risk assessment to avoid future damage.
And when it’s time to replant, Walsh said the county branches of the Penn State Extension are a great resource for advice on how to put the right species of tree in the right place.
Around the area, municipalities’ road crews also put in a lot of time dealing with fallen trees and debris, some of which worked for 24 hours straight after the storm. To date, Red Hill is holding a tree trimming collection Nov. 19 and East Greenville is planning a collection in the coming weeks.
Residents should contact their individual municipalities to ask about available services.
Sandy may have proven to be labor-intensive in our region, but overall people are just counting their blessings.
“You see footage of how it looks in New Jersey and New York and it’s mind-boggling,” Cheryl Cooper said. “I think we’re all thankful around here that we dodged a bullet. We have our house, our heat’s back on and we can still hug our kids.”