Article - Harrisburg - Power Outages from October 2011 'freak' snowstorm
Last month, Hurricane Irene left more than 260,000 PPL customers without power.
The rare October nor’easter that on Saturday dumped 5.5 inches of heavy snow in the Harrisburg area was worse.
Saturday’s storm left 315,000 PPL customers in central and eastern Pennsylvania and 257,000 Met-Ed customers without electricity.
By 7:15 p.m. Sunday, PPL still had 150,000 customers without electricity in its 29-county region, including 1,995 in Cumberland County, 3,027 in Dauphin County, 1,003 in Lebanon County, 1,288 in Perry County and 1,998 in York County.
The outages occurred when leaf-laden trees bent and broke under the heavy snow and fell on power lines and poles. In a company statement, PPL called the Lehigh Valley the hardest-hit region, with 125,000 customers affected, followed by the Harrisburg and Lancaster areas.
“With a storm of this magnitude, it could take days until we can restore service to all customers,” said David DeCampli, PPL Electric Utilities president. “Our crews are assessing the damage by foot, by vehicle and by air. We’re focusing on repairs that can restore power to the largest numbers of customers as quickly and safely as possible.”
He said about 1,000 workers on 250 crews responded to outages. An additional 150 crews from western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee joined the restoration effort.
It was a familiar job for electricity workers, who in September replaced miles of power lines and more than 1,200 utility poles, 300 transformers and thousands of pieces of pole-top equipment damaged by Hurricane Irene.
The storm also affected transportation through the midstate.
Greg Penny, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 8 spokesman, said that as of 6 p.m. Sunday, about 30 roads in the eight-county district remained closed because of downed trees on power lines. Most of these were in York County, he said.
“PennDOT crews remove trees and branches from the roads when power lines are not involved,” he said. “But if the trees or limbs are entangled with power lines, we have to wait for the utility crew to come in and safely clear the electric power line. Right now, utility crews are busy restoring electricity.”
Penny also said Route 11 at the West Pennsboro and Penn townships border near Newville remains closed in both directions. He said state police requested the closure because they are concerned that a silo that appears to be leaning might fall on nearby power lines and the road.
“This road closure has more to do with the condition of the silo than the weather,” he said.
PennDOT workers prepared for the storm Friday by putting plowing blades on their trucks and loading salt and anti-skid material, Penny said.
“We had our first crews out at 4 a.m. Saturday,” he said. “By the time it started snowing at 9 a.m., we had more than 90 trucks out. By 10 a.m., we had 300 trucks out. We saw accumulations of 7 to 14 inches of snow in our area, very unusual for October. We wanted to stay on top of the storm.”
Scott Miller, Harrisburg International Airport spokesman, said a flight to Charlotte, N.C., and another to Newark, N.J., were canceled on Sunday morning because the planes didn’t arrive Saturday night. He said the airlines make the flight decisions.
“This wasn’t a difficult snow for the airport staff,” Miller said. “We cleared the runways. We had flights all day and evening. Everything is normal here.”
Amtrak restored service Sunday night on the Keystone Corridor between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, which it suspended Saturday because of weather problems and signal problems.
The American Red Cross of the Susquehanna Valley closed emergency shelters at Central Dauphin East Middle School and the Newberry Township municipal building and Shrewsbury, then opened a shelter Sunday night at Central High School near York.
The snowstorm, which hit the midstate with a ferocity more common to February than October, smashed record snowfall totals for October.
Barry Lambert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College, said Harrisburg’s 5.5 inches of snow on Saturday broke the record for the earliest snow, a trace of snow on Oct. 29, 1952, and the record for the most October snow, 2.1 inches in 1925.
“This basically starts our winter season,” he said. “This week will have pretty fair weather but about seven degrees colder than normal.”
Asked what kind of winter the Harrisburg area can expect, Lambert laughed.
“We can’t tell yet,” he said. “Our long-range forecast says there’s an equal chances of having above or below precipitation. There is no striking signal to sway us either way.”