The wrath of Sandy

— Hur­ricane Sandy was bad — very, very bad — but North­east Philly fared much bet­ter than oth­er areas on the East Coast.

Joe New­bert makes ar­range­ments to move the tree that fell from his front yard on the 1300 block of Rich­wood Road. He said the tree fell around eight on Monday even­ing, and as of Tues­day, Joe has no power or cable. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

North­east Phil­adelphi­ans watched a nat­ur­al dis­aster of epic pro­por­tions un­fold on Monday night and in­to Tues­day. But for­tu­nately for the loc­als, most of Hur­ricane Sandy’s dam­age showed up on their tele­vi­sion screens and not at their door­steps.

Im­ages of Sandy’s im­mense de­struc­tion at the Jer­sey Shore, in New York City and along Long Is­land’s south­ern coast dwarfed North­east Philly’s prob­lems, which were mostly lim­ited to count­less toppled trees and fallen power lines, caus­ing wide­spread power out­ages. 

In the storm’s wake, streets were left littered with branches that been torn away as well as oth­er debris and blankets of wet leaves.

Tony Fidura, of the 14000 block of Kelvin Ave. in Somer­ton, spent part of Tues­day with a power saw, cut­ting away a 75-foot tree that fell onto the street and dam­aged the hood and fend­er of his car, which was parked at curb­side.

  “It’s no longer a PT Cruis­er. It’s PT Crush,” he said.

The storm’s im­pact left traffic lights dark at many ma­jor in­ter­sec­tions, in­clud­ing on Roosevelt Boulevard, and side streets be­came a maze of de­tours as trees and power lines blocked road­ways. Homeown­ers ven­tured out Tues­day morn­ing to as­sess the dam­age in their yards and be­gin the cleanup.

Steady but rarely heavy rains fell most of the day Monday and softened the ground. Then gale force winds with vi­ol­ent gusts up to 70 mph para­lyzed the area that even­ing, leav­ing most folks house­bound while po­lice and fire­fight­ers raced through the streets in re­sponse to an end­less lit­any of 911 calls.

Ob­serv­ers for the Na­tion­al Weath­er Ser­vice meas­ured about two inches of rain­fall in the North­east from about 4 a.m. Monday through 10 p.m. Tues­day. Loc­al creeks did not over­flow their banks, nor did low-ly­ing streets flood. In the five-county Phil­adelphia re­gion, 850,000 cus­tom­ers lost power, in­clud­ing 65,000 with­in the city’s bound­ar­ies, ac­cord­ing to PECO.

Power had been re­stored to 390,000 homes re­gion­ally as of Wed­nes­day morn­ing, al­though 37,000 Phil­adelphia homes re­mained without power.

No storm-re­lated deaths or ma­jor in­jur­ies were re­por­ted in Phil­adelphia, in­clud­ing emer­gency re­spon­ders and oth­er city em­ploy­ees, au­thor­it­ies said. In con­trast, 22 deaths were re­por­ted in New York City alone, ac­cord­ing to CNN. There were sev­en storm-re­lated deaths throughout Pennsylvania.

In North­east Philly, Naz­areth Hos­pit­al helped a half-dozen pa­tients, said Christy Mc­Cabe, the hos­pit­al’s mar­ket­ing and com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or. Among them were sev­er­al people with back in­jur­ies suffered while clear­ing trees and branches in their yards. A few oth­ers needed help with chron­ic con­di­tions due to elec­tric­al ser­vice de­liv­ery dis­rup­tion or vis­ited the hos­pit­al be­cause home oxy­gen sup­pli­ers could not de­liv­er dur­ing the storm.

May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter and oth­er pub­lic of­fi­cials had is­sued re­peated warn­ings about po­ten­tial flood­ing and evac­u­ations, but they did not ma­ter­i­al­ize. Non­ethe­less, the cau­tions ap­peared to suc­ceed by in­flu­en­cing most folks to stay out of harm’s way.

“I didn’t see hardly any­body [on Monday] night,” said Sgt. Mike Colello of the 8th Po­lice Dis­trict, who was on patrol dur­ing peak

hours of the storm.

It ap­peared as if most North­east res­id­ents stayed home, while some moved in­to a tem­por­ary pub­lic shel­ter at Samuel Fels High School. By Tues­day morn­ing, 27 adults, six chil­dren and 11 of their pets re­mained at Fels, ac­cord­ing to Phil­adelphia’s Of­fice of Emer­gency Man­age­ment.

Mean­while, slightly few­er people were at an­oth­er pub­lic shel­ter at Roxbor­ough High School. A third city shel­ter at West Phil­adelphia High School had about 227 oc­cu­pants. The shel­ters re­mained open un­til Wed­nes­day.

“Things went pretty smoothly at all the shel­ters,” said Joan Przybylow­icz, the OEM’s deputy dir­ect­or for ex­tern­al af­fairs.

Przybylow­icz said the storm was bad, but she be­lieves the re­l­at­ively few flooded areas kept the pop­u­la­tions down at the high schools. She en­cour­aged res­id­ents to vis­it the Web site ReadyNo­ti­ and sign up for its no­ti­fic­a­tion ser­vice to mon­it­or weath­er and oth­er emer­gen­cies that might im­pact the area.

She also in­vited Twit­ter users to fol­low her of­fice. Its handle is @phil­aoem

At the high schools, the Red Cross de­livered cots and sup­plies, while the Sal­va­tion Army provided food. Phil­adelphia and school dis­trict po­lice were on hand, along with city emer­gency med­ic­al tech­ni­cians and vo­lun­teer med­ic­al per­son­nel.

“It was very or­derly. The res­id­ents were very co­oper­at­ive, and the city was very co­oper­at­ive,” said Red Cross spokes­man Dave Schrader.

Hourly weath­er ob­ser­va­tions pub­lished by the Na­tion­al Weath­er Ser­vice showed that Sandy, a cat­egory 1 hur­ricane that was later down­graded to a post-trop­ic­al cyc­lone, brought steady rains from about 4 a.m. through noon on Monday, then again from 3 to 5 p.m. Rain­fall re­sumed at about 10 p.m. Monday and con­tin­ued for about three hours. The NWS noted “heavy”

rain from 7 to 9 a.m. Monday and 3 to 4 p.m. Monday.

Winds began in­creas­ing in ve­lo­city on Monday af­ter­noon. Pre­vail­ing winds were meas­ured at 36 mph, with 45 mph gusts, at about 3 p.m. Monday. Pre­vail­ing winds peaked at 43 mph at about 7 p.m. Gusts routinely reached about 60 mph from 5 p.m. through 11 p.m. Monday and reached as high as 70 mph at North­east Air­port, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­al Weath­er Ser­vice.

Total rain­fall for the storm was meas­ured at 1.62 inches at North­east Air­port and 2.17 inches in Rockledge, the NWS re­por­ted, while vo­lun­teer ob­serv­ers noted a read­ing of 2.35 inches else­where in the North­east.

Neigh­bor­hoods and sub­di­vi­sions throughout North­east Philly were af­fected by power out­ages.

“We’ve had out­ages from top to bot­tom in the dis­trict,” said Capt. Joseph Zaffino, com­mand­er of the 7th Po­lice Dis­trict.

The 7th dis­trict spans from Rhawn Street to the Poquess­ing Creek and from Roosevelt Boulevard to the city’s bor­der with Mont­gomery County. It is one of four dis­tricts in the North­east.

Ac­cord­ing to Zaffino, one out­age spanned from the 11700 block of Stevens Road north to Southamp­ton Road and from Wor­thing­ton Road west to­ward Bustleton Av­en­ue in Somer­ton. At the corner of Stevens Road and Welton Street, a tree fell in­to six or sev­en util­ity wires, pulling them from a pole.

“We had a couple of [power] trans­formers on fire. They put them­selves out,” Zaffino said.

An­oth­er out­age oc­curred from the 8000 block of Al­gon Ave. to the 8600 block of Al­gon and east­ward to­ward Bustleton Av­en­ue in Rhawn­hurst and in­volved sev­er­al thou­sand homes, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice cap­tain, who spoke with PECO of­fi­cials.

On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Nut­ter re­por­ted that traffic sig­nals at 73 in­ter­sec­tions in the city had lost power dur­ing the storm and 31 were still in­op­er­able. Af­fected in­ter­sec­tions in the North­east in­cluded Grant Av­en­ue and Academy Road, Ashton and Wil­lits roads, Cottman Av­en­ue and Hor­rocks Street, and Cottman Av­en­ue and Cot­tage Street.

Mean­while, city crews had cleared 60 downed trees from city streets. All ma­jor thor­ough­fares had been cleared by Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, but about 80 smal­ler streets re­mained blocked by trees, Nut­ter said.

In the North­east, trees blocked the out­er three north­bound lanes of Roosevelt Boulevard at Ry­an Av­en­ue, Rhawn Street and Wood­ward Street, as well as the Boulevard’s out­er three south­bound lanes at Faunce Street. Rhawn Street was blocked near Hol­me­hurst Av­en­ue, as was Row­land Av­en­ue near Har­tel Av­en­ue. All were re­opened to traffic on Tues­day. ••

  John Loftus and Tom War­ing con­trib­uted to this art­icle.

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