a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Power company arrives, four days after Stormageddon as scary new storm approaches

A National Weather Service map shown in a webinar today of the snowfall predictions for southwestern Pennsylvania through Thursday on the next storm barreling down on the region in the aftermath of a winter weather disaster.

By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – A power company, one dispatched from neighboring New York, finally shows up this morning in our tiny southwestern Pennsylvania village, four days after the lights went out from the crippling snowfall known as Stormageddon.

The news its driver delivers is encouraging, but he offers only a glimmer of hope the town folk will soon be able to once again crank up their home furnaces.

“They told us to tell everyone Thursday, or sooner,” he says about when the power might be restored. “We’re not making any promises.”

His passenger hops out and takes a quick look at a dangling wire on my street. The two men are just here to assess the damage.

“Did you take a ride up the hollow?” I ask.

“No,” the driver says.

“You need to,” is my response.

Along the narrow, winding Webster Hollow Road is where the two-day storm that thundered in Friday pulled as many as 10 large trees from their roots. The landslide brought down a string of lines feeding the village with electricity, phones and cable television.

The lineman says that road inspection is probably someone else’s job and he drives off, and so do I to begin reporting the next chapter of the storm story for the Observer-Reporter daily newspaper in Washington, Pa.

Some interesting tidbits of what turned up during my day are as follows:

The National Guard finally showed up to help run a new American Red Cross shelter as more than 19,000 houses are still without power in Washington County, and a new storm is approaching that could deliver another heavy snow. The guard’s first assignment is to relocate people who had called ambulances to take them to Washington Hospital because they were cold, not sick.

While 911 dispatchers were fielding more than 8,000 calls over two days during the last storm crisis, some local police were still pulling people over and radioing in for license checks.

Many residents are complaining that their local elected officials, emergency management coordinators and police failed them by not checking on neighborhoods without power or informing their residents about the locations of shelters and other places to get warm. Others defend them by saying those folks are busy, too, facing similar problems in this disaster.

The new “double-barrel storm” is expected, according to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, to dump as many as 10 new inches of snow in the area, beginning tonight and stretching into Thursday.

The first several inches are supposed to be wet and heavy before the temperature dips and the snow turns light and fluffy. Strong winds should follow the storm, creating what could be another powerful punch to bring down more trees and power lines. That is why the National Guard is here with Humvees to possibly evacuate more people to shelters, if the storm pans out.

The Weather Service people here work hard and are especially jovial when reporters call them for sources. But, I hope they are dead wrong on this storm.

At this point, it’s mostly rain here in Webster and the first snow-mix this afternoon left a dusting that has created a slippery mess on roads, some of which are still covered with ice craters. We were supposed to have already received as many as 4 inches of snow, atop the 2 feet that arrived earlier in some places.

Meanwhile, tree-clearing crew showed up in Webster this afternoon to begin the task of removing those downed trees along Webster Hollow Road. Fortunately, my house here is warm, and the pipes to my bathroom have defrosted. I’m one of the lucky few with auxiliary natural gas heat that doesn’t depend on electricity to work. So far, my resourceful neighbors appear to be dealing with this mess, as well, as it comes at them.

Four days after a winter weather disaster in southwestern Pennsylvania, a large tree dangles on power lines along Route 136 in Forward Township.

Washington County Public Safety Director Jeff Yates, left, briefs U.S. Army National Guard liaison officer Jason Mounts of Buffalo Township today on the disaster needs following last week's snow storm, as 18 percent houses in the county are still without power. Mounts first task will be to coordinate transporting people who sought shelter from the cold at Washington Hospital to an American Red Cross shelter.

1 comment:

Amanda Blu said...

Nicely written, Scooter. And I couldn't agree more: The folks at the National Weather Service are some of the best resources out there. Always kind and ready to help.