Power still out for more than 100,000 in the Lehigh Valley

Expecting power any time soon?

Don’t hold your breath.

It could be days before power is fully restored to more than 100,000 customers in the Lehigh Valley, some whom have been in the dark since early Saturday afternoon. A few of the nearly 200 crews on the road are waiting for trees and debris to get cleared before they can begin repairs.

“It’s not a matter of flipping on a light,” said Lissette Santana, spokeswoman for PPL. “We’ve seen considerable damage to our infrastructure. It’s hard for crews to even get access to the damage because of all the clean up that needs to be done.”

PPL is advising families with children and elderly relatives to seek shelter elsewhere, since a time frame for full restoration is uncertain. Shelters are still up at Springhouse Middle School in South Whitehall and the Alburtis Fire Company on Main Street in the East Penn area.

“It could take several days,” said Lissette Santana, who offered an apology from PPL. “We realize some customers have been unable to reach us because of the heavy call volume. We encourage them to be persistent.”

Thomas H. Nervine, director of Lehigh County Emergency Management Services, cautioned the region’s residents not to be lured outside and onto roads by the sunny skies and warm temperatures.

“We are not out of danger yet,” said Nervine, who warns of hidden dangers, such as wires tangled in trees and buried under leaves.

“Many trees have been weakened by the strain of ice and snow,” said Nervine, adding that more trees are likely to fall as the snow melts and saturates the ground. “It’s a nice day, but if you don’t have to go anywhere, don’t.”

Overnight, PPL reported an additional 20,000 power outages. As of noon, Sunday at least, 2,900 cases involve major repairs to the system’s transmission lines, transformers and circuit breakers, affecting 185,000 customers in the 29-county service area.

Dozens of traffic signals are still out. Downed trees continue to block roads. And despite PPL crews working around the clock, more than 77,000 Lehigh County residents are still without power, with the bulk of outages occurring in Allentown and South Whitehall. At least 28,000 customers are without power in Northampton County and 13,000 in Bucks County.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Steve Fogt, of South Whitehall, who was not among more than 13,000 residents without power.

Fogt surveyed the storm’s aftermath during a Sunday morning drive. Huckleberry Road, he said, was closed between Scherer Road and Cedar Crest, where a “huge tree” covered a stretch of the road.

“There are trees down everywhere. Lots of them,” he said.

PPL expects more outages Sunday morning, as snow-laden trees continue to snap power lines.

The clean-up will be “a multiday restoration effort,” according to its web site. It is encouraging customers with special needs, such as infants or elderly parents, to make arrangements to stay in other places. Because of the influx of callers, customers may have trouble reaching customer service. They are encouraged to call again, reporting outages at 1-800-Dial-PPL or 1-800-342-5775.

Halloween parades in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton were canceled.

In Saucon Valley, blackout-weary residents flocked to one of the few restaurants in the area that was open for business early Sunday in search of one of life’s true necessities: coffee.

A line quickly formed as the store opened its doors at the Promenade Shops around 9:15 a.m. Among the first customers was Denise Smith of Lower Saucon, whose family had been without power since about 2 p.m. Saturday.

After a white-knuckle drive home from Lansdale, Montgomery County, Smith said she and her son Ryan 12, and husband Mike hunkered down last night in sweat shirts and blankets.

“The trees were just coming down in our neighborhood at a very scary rate,” Smith said.

One fell on a neighbor’s roof, she said. They were away, so Mark Smith said he went out and threw a tarp over the roof to keep the precipitation out.

The folks at Rocco’s Pizza in Lower Saucon made pies by flashlight, she said. That was Saturday night dinner. At daybreak, the Smiths ventured out for something else besides power that was lacking.

“No coffee,” said Denise Smith. “That’s why we are at Starbucks. Now we just have to find gas.”

Other patrons offered similar stories, all punctuated by the ominous sound of cracking tree limbs.

Sue and Barry Skoras of Limeport dodged multiple falling limbs, and made several detours for closed roads during a one-and-half-hour drive to a Saturday wedding at the Lake House on Lake Nockamixon in northern Bucks County.

Appetizers were served by candlelight, but the wedding went off as scheduled, albeit with fewer celebrants, said Sue Skoras, a PPL employee.

The bride and groom James and Jess Stover made the best of it, Skoras said, getting pictures taken in the snow. The Skoras arrived home to a dark house. “No power, the dog was scared, it was cold.”

Still, she said, waiting in line for a cup of hot coffee, it was an adventure.

For Helena and Mike McDonald of Chicago, the storm dealt an unexpected twist to their trip east to visit relatives in Saucon Valley for Halloween. They lost power Saturday afternoon and thinking it would come back on quickly, spent the rest of the day hopping from Red Robin to the Lehigh Valley Mall with family to stay warm and keep busy.

But when they returned home with daughters Mackensie, 6 and Maggie, 4 in tow, still no power.

“We all slept in the den with lots of blankets and huddled together,” said Helena McDonald.

Emergency generators continue to pump power to hundreds of residents at South Whitehall’s Cedarbrook Nursing Home, which lost power Saturday evening, said Terry Lopus, the home’s administrator.

With help from the county’s emergency management office and additional staff, the residents made it through the storm with little disruption.

“The weather has been overwhelming, but we are doing OK,” said Lopus, adding the storm knocked out power for 660 residents, but generators kicked in immediately.

The National Weather Service reported that 14 inches of snow fell over Salisbury Township and at least 10 inches blanketed Perkasie in Bucks County.

Most of the area’s snowfall totals have not been updated since 9 p.m. At that time, observers from the National Weather Service reported that the storm dumped at least 6.5 inches in Allentown, 11.5 inches in New Tripoli, and 8 inches in Quakertown.

Tell us your storm story. Email The Morning Call reporter Marion Callahan at mtcallahan@mcall.com.

Morning Call reporter Scott Kraus contributed to this story.

Power outages in the Valley

Allentown: 15,991

Bangor: 2,200

Bethlehem: 7,270

Easton: 7,095

Emmaus: 6,438

Salisbury: 5,817

S. Whitehall: 13,100

Lower Macungie: 5,998

Upper Saucon: 10,219

Sources: PPL Electric Utilities and Met-Ed