PHILADELPHIA — The governor of Pennsylvania says more than half a million utility customers lost power in the commonwealth at the height of the powerful storm that sent trees onto roads and rail lines, stranded motorists and left one man dead.
Gov. Tom Wolf said Saturday that about 445,000 utility customers remained without power Saturday, down from nearly 600,000 affected at the height of the storm, and vowed support for utility crews working to restore power.
Police in Montgomery County said officers found a 45-foot portion of a tree had fallen on the front windshield, dashboard and front seat of a car at about 7 p.m. Friday in Upper Merion Township, killing a 57-year-old man. His name wasn’t released pending notification of relatives.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said trees fell onto many rail lines during the storm, halting almost all regional rail lines and forcing detours or limited service on many bus lines. Trees also landed directly onto two buses but caused no serious injuries, officials said.
The National Weather Service said almost two feet of snow was reported in parts of the Pocono mountains, with 23.6 inches recorded on Coolbaugh Township and 20 inches reported in Tobyhanna. The American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania reported that highways in the region remained “clogged with travelers left stranded by the storm.” Officials said they opened several shelters Friday night and expected to open or support several more, and many other communities opened warming centers and charging stations.
Governor Tom Wolf activated the Pennsylvania National Guard to help deal with the storm and said about 65 National Guard soldiers had been performing wellness checks and using large heavy-duty vehicles capable of moving large vehicles such as tractor trailers from roadways, including Interstate 380. State police troopers walked along queues of cars stuck in traffic to check on stranded travelers, making sure people had food and water and to assess other needs.
Nearly 287,000 PECO customers remained without power in the five-county Philadelphia area Saturday morning. The company said it had restored service to more than 255,000 customers by dawn, but given the extent of damage and continued high winds “this will be a multi-day restoration effort.”
PPL Electric Utilities said the storm “will rank among the 10 most damaging” in PPL’s service area, especially in the Poconos and Lehigh valley as well as northern Bucks and Montgomery counties. The utility said it had about 3,000 workers, contractors and support personnel working on the problem, and had 98,000 customers out Saturday afternoon after restoring power to about 75,000 customers.
The Delaware County Council said it had declared a disaster emergency, citing “extensive damage to roads, bridges, homes and businesses as a result of heavy snow, high winds and fallen trees and debris across the county.” As of the morning, 82,000 homes and businesses — about one-third of the county— remained without power, officials said.