Northeast Times

The aftermath of Hurricane Irene

Res­id­ents con­tin­ue to as­sess the dam­age caused by the strong storm, in­clud­ing flood­ing and trees flattened by gusty winds.

It seems we got off easy dur­ing our week­end with Irene. 

Phil­adelphia and its ’burbs did get all those ma­jor and minor woes that should be ex­pec­ted from a hur­ricane — power out­ages, felled trees, cars crushed and build­ings dam­aged by fall­ing trees, flood­ing and res­cues from cars stuck in flooded streets.

Up and down the East Coast, Irene claimed lives. In this city, however, tra­gedies were al­most non-ex­ist­ent. One man died in an auto ac­ci­dent in the North­east at about 9 p.m. Sat­urday, but po­lice have not de­term­ined if it was linked to the storm.

Po­lice are sure, however, that high speed was in­volved in the one-car crash on the 7600 block of Al­gon Ave. that killed Mario Faria, 39, of the 6800 block of Al­gon Ave. and crit­ic­ally in­jured a 47-year-old wo­man who was his pas­sen­ger. Po­lice did not re­lease the pas­sen­ger’s name. The ac­ci­dent is still un­der in­vest­ig­a­tion.

There was plenty of warn­ing, so there was plenty of pre­par­a­tion for Irene. Fore­casts called for 6 to 9 inches of rain, along with high winds.

By Fri­day af­ter­noon, it was ob­vi­ous city res­id­ents were tak­ing the ap­proach­ing storm ser­i­ously. Any­one who waited un­til then to buy flash­lights, bat­ter­ies, milk, bread or sump pumps prob­ably was out of luck. Any­one who waited un­til then to gas up a car prob­ably was in line at the pumps for a long time. File that un­der “things to do bet­ter next time.”

What was well done, if not over­done, was ex­e­cu­tion of plans to keep people off the roads and at home.

Ball games were scratched. SEPTA can­celed ser­vice as of early Sunday morn­ing. Streets were closed. Sump pumps were set up. Win­dows were boarded up. 

Phil­adelphia and its cit­izens were ready, however, for more trouble than they got.

The city had three emer­gency shel­ters set up and was ready to help out many more than the few who came to them. In fact, by Sunday even­ing, the shel­ter at Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln High School and an­oth­er in Roxbor­ough were closed. Pop­u­la­tion at the Lin­coln shel­ter topped off at 38 dur­ing the storm, the Amer­ic­an Red Cross said.

The city de­ac­tiv­ated its emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­ter at 5 p.m. Sunday. By the time Irene blew out of town Sunday af­ter­noon, the most com­mon words be­ing spoken were “very lucky.”

But not every­body was all that for­tu­nate.

Some people lost power, saw wa­ter dam­age or saw cars or prop­er­ties dam­aged by fall­ing trees. Most of the city’s prob­lems were in Manay­unk, with its fam­ously flooded Main Street, and in South­w­est Philly.

Rain — 5.7 inches of it — and wind gusts caused some trees to fall. Any­one driv­ing around the North­east earli­er this week didn’t have to look hard to see snapped sap­lings as well as some fine old trees stretched across streets or crush­ing cars, or both.

A few ex­amples: 

• Magee Av­en­ue just east of Frank­ford Av­en­ue had to be blocked off Monday be­cause a huge tree had fallen across the road­way.

• Sim­il­arly, a good-size tree crushed two cars on the 4700 block of Oak­land St. That street, too, was blocked off Monday.

• A tree on Aria Health’s Frank­ford cam­pus on the 4900 block of Frank­ford Ave. was already in pieces on Monday af­ter­noon.

• An­oth­er tree was down on PGW prop­erty at Castor Av­en­ue and Hoffnagle Street.

In Phil­adelphia, 22,000 PECO cus­tom­ers had lost power. By Tues­day af­ter­noon, only 700 were still without power, said Kar­en Mul­doon Geus, a PECO spokes­wo­man. She ex­pec­ted those 700 to have power by Wed­nes­day.

Flood­ing re­mained the big worry earli­er this week. Both the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers are tid­al, so wa­ters surged up from Delaware Bay against their storm-swollen south­bound cur­rents. One man re­por­ted see­ing big waves rolling north on the Delaware on Sunday.

Un­der Monday’s sun­shine, it was easy to see where the Delaware had been. At a mu­ni­cip­al park­ing lot at Delaware and Linden av­en­ues, the river left a coat­ing of debris that in­cluded big tree trunks more than 25 feet from its banks.

Paul Co­hen of Rhawn­hurst, who reg­u­larly fishes along the river next to that lot, said Monday af­ter­noon that the river — brown and loaded with float­ing debris — still was about 6 or more feet in­to the park than it usu­ally is. 

On Tues­day, the Na­tion­al Weath­er Ser­vice con­tin­ued to warn about flood­ing along the Delaware.

SEPTA re­sumed most ser­vices ex­cept for four re­gion­al rail lines by Monday, and al­most all of them were op­er­at­ing in some fash­ion by Tues­day.

The Phil­adelphia Wa­ter De­part­ment said its wa­ter and sew­er sys­tems held up “ad­mir­ably” dur­ing the storm, and that drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply and qual­ity were not af­fected. Flood­ing com­plaints were few. Four-hun­dred in­lets were cleaned be­fore the storm, and most sew­ers and in­lets did what they were sup­posed to do ex­cept in low-ly­ing areas near rivers and streams. PWD said its wastewa­ter plants re­ceived not quite 1 bil­lion gal­lons of storm wa­ter — more than twice the nor­mal volume.

The de­part­ment, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease, pumped out prop­er­ties on Main Street in Manay­unk and as­sisted the De­part­ment of Streets in clean­ing debris off Kelly, Mar­tin Luth­er King and Lin­coln drives.

In the North­east on Sunday, Frank­ford Av­en­ue was closed for a while near Ash­burn­er Street be­cause of a tree on SEPTA wires, and Wood­haven Road near By­berry Road was closed be­cause of flood­ing.

The Phil­adelphia Gas Works re­por­ted no ser­vice in­ter­rup­tions. 

“We’re all un­der­ground so we were OK,” said spokes­wo­man Melanie Mc­Cottry.

What did the pre­par­a­tions cost the city? Too soon to tell, but don’t think in small num­bers. What was spent by the Red Cross, which set up shel­ters and is still work­ing hard in the North­east part of the coun­try? Also too soon to say, but “it’s go­ing to be in the mil­lions,” said spokes­wo­man Sarah Smith.

Any­one who wants to help the Red Cross foot that bill can log on to red­cross­philly.org, call 1-800-RED-Cross or text RED­CROSS to 90999.

And one more thing from the Red Cross: Irene swept a lot of blood drives off the cal­en­dar. If you can donate blood, make a point of it.

“The need for blood is huge,” Smith said. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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