Sandy strikes the Northeast

As Phil­adelphia po­lice took in­vent­ory early Tues­day af­ter­noon to as­sess the loc­al im­pact of Hur­ricane Sandy, one glar­ing need be­came ap­par­ent - more yel­low cau­tion tape.

Dur­ing the pre­ced­ing 20 hours or so, cops spent count­less rolls of the stretchy plastic strip­ing to cor­don dozens of po­ten­tial dis­aster scenes from un­sus­pect­ing, curi­ous and some­times reck­less ci­vil­ians. Po­lice used cau­tion tape to mark toppled trees and power lines, to close in­ter­sec­tions where traffic lights failed and to block at least one ma­jor auto ac­ci­dent scene.

With 9-1-1 calls pour­ing in­to the po­lice and fire ra­dio rooms from dusk Monday in­to Tues­day’s pre-dawn hours, patrol of­ficers and fire­fight­ers raced from job to job, linger­ing at each site only long enough to take a re­port and set up a safety peri­met­er if needed.

“We had a tre­mend­ous amount of downed wires and trees,” said Capt. Frank Bach­may­er of the 15th Po­lice Dis­trict, who also su­per­vised op­er­a­tions in the neigh­bor­ing 2nd dis­trict for the night. “Of­ficers put crime scene tape up, se­cured the scene and went off to the next scene.”

There were no deaths or ma­jor in­jur­ies re­por­ted in any of the North­east’s four po­lice dis­tricts, ac­cord­ing to dis­trict su­per­visors. Bach­may­er was un­aware of any street flood­ing.

Most folks ad­hered to pub­lic safety warn­ings and stayed off the streets, in­clud­ing crim­in­als.

“Crime kind of took a back seat last night,” said Capt. Joe Zaffino of the 7th Po­lice Dis­trict. “[But] the cops were run­ning all over the place with downed trees and downed wires.”

But there were at least a couple of life threat­en­ing cases in the North­east.

Shortly be­fore 2 a.m. Tues­day, po­lice were no­ti­fied that a large tree had fallen onto an oc­cu­pied car on Rhawn Street near Hol­me­hurst Av­en­ue. The 30-to-40-foot tree crushed the hood and roof of the older mod­el Buick sedan. But when po­lice got there, the driver was nowhere to be found.

Bach­may­er thinks that the tree may have fallen be­fore the east­bound car happened upon it and un­der­cut its thick primary branches.

“The tree went down, the car ran in­to it and the guy fled,” Bach­may­er said.

Po­lice don’t know how many people were in­side the car or who they were. In­vest­ig­at­ors are try­ing to use the vehicle tag to loc­ate its own­er. The driver could be cited for leav­ing the scene of an ac­ci­dent.

Else­where in the 15th dis­trict, fire­fight­ers re­spon­ded to the 4200 block of Cottman Ave. at about 9 p.m. Monday where wires fell onto homes and sparked flames. Sev­er­al res­id­ents were evac­u­ated to an un­known loc­a­tion, Bach­may­er said.

A visu­al sur­vey of the prop­er­ties on Tues­day af­ter­noon showed no ob­vi­ous signs of ex­ter­i­or dam­age.

The same couldn’t be said for a Sprint wire­less store on the 2100 block of Cottman Ave. At about mid­night dur­ing the storm, its brick ex­ter­i­or facade col­lapsed, re­veal­ing the un­der­ly­ing cinderb­locks.

By Tues­day af­ter­noon, the build­ing’s win­dows had been sealed with ply­wood, al­though its pink, dis­placed bricks re­mained scattered on a nearby side­walk. The city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tion con­demned the build­ing for re­pairs.

In the Far North­east, mem­bers of the Delaware River Yacht Club at Grant Av­en­ue and Mil­nor Street ar­rived on Monday to find that Sandy had mangled their boat docks and sta­ging pier.

Ac­cord­ing to the club’s rear com­modore, Joe Apice, storm wa­ters and winds lif­ted two wooden and steel docks and twis­ted them to­ward the river bank, be­fore the tide swept them back in­to deep­er wa­ter.  Most of the club’s 80 act­ive mem­bers had pulled their ves­sels out of the river be­fore the storm, but two sail­boats and the club’s “tender” boat weathered the on­slaught on the wa­ter.

Mean­while, a float­ing crane used by the club for launch­ing boats broke from its moor­ing and floated about a mile down-river be­fore crash­ing in­to pier pil­ings near Linden Av­en­ue. The dol­lar value of the yacht club dam­age is not known.

Else­where in the Far North­east, in­cid­ents in­volving ma­jor prop­erty dam­age were few, po­lice said.

In one case, of­ficers were called to a beauty salon at Academy and By­berry roads for broken win­dows. Fear­ing a burg­lary, po­lice entered the prop­erty to in­vest­ig­ate, trig­ger­ing the alarm. There was no evid­ence of a crime. Moth­er Nature did the dam­age.

“It was that windy,” said Sgt. Mike Colello of the 8th dis­trict. “I think [Hur­ricane] Irene was worse wa­ter-wise, but wind-wise this was worse.”

Loc­al streams did not reach wa­ter levels seen dur­ing pri­or storms like last year’s Hur­ricane Irene. The Pennypack Creek at Frank­ford Av­en­ue ap­peared to rise about three feet above nor­mal levels on Monday af­ter­noon and early Tues­day, but did not over­flow its stone em­bank­ment.

By Tues­day af­ter­noon, the creek had already re­ceded a couple feet.

Sim­il­arly, cur­rents in the Poquess­ing Creek were swollen and fast-mov­ing, but low-ly­ing areas like Grant Av­en­ue near the Tor­res­dale train sta­tion did not flood.

Con­versely fallen trees blocked road­ways throughout the North­east. There were sev­er­al loc­a­tions along Roosevelt Boulevard. In the north­bound lanes, trees were down near Ry­an Av­en­ue, Rhawn Street and Wood­ward Street.  Po­lice closed the three out­er lanes at each site.

In ad­di­tion, a downed tree blocked the three south­bound out­er lanes­n­ear Faunce Street, while fallen limbs cre­ated ad­di­tion­al road­way obstacles.

Nu­mer­ous in­ter­sec­tions lost power to their traffic lights, in­clud­ing Grant Av­en­ue and Academy Road; Ashton and Wil­lits roads; Cottman Av­en­ue and Hor­rocks Street; and Cottman Av­en­ue and Cot­tage Street.

Crime-wise, po­lice in the 15th dis­trict were aware of only a couple of ma­jor crimes.

“We may have had a rob­bery or two,” Bach­may­er said. “It was a re­l­at­ively quiet night on crime.”

In the 7th and 8th dis­tricts, po­lice in­vest­ig­ated a hand­ful of theft re­ports. There were no re­ports of wide­spread burg­lar­ies or loot­ing of busi­nesses.

 ”[Crime] was real low. Every­body hunkered down,” said Colello, whonoted that ad­di­tion­al crime re­ports may be delayed be­cause mer­chants may have yet to re­turn to their shops.

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or

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