New Castle News

October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: County declares state of emergency

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County has joined other Pennsylvania counties in declaring a state of disaster emergency.

The action was in anticipation of a superstorm hitting the East Coast. Hurricane Sandy is expected to hit harder than Hurricane Irene, which last year resulted in historic flooding and left hundreds of thousands without power.

The commissioners, county administrator James Gagliano, solicitor Tom Leslie and public safety director Brian Melcer participated Monday morning in a conference call with Lt. Gov. James Cawley and Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, to develop a plan to cope with the anticipated storm.

Commissioner chairman Dan Vogler said the county declared a state of emergency as requested by Gov. Tom Corbett, who has declared a state of emergency in Pennsylvania. This will allow officials to request federal funding and other assistance if necessary.

The storm was expected to come ashore in New Jersey and roll through Philadelphia and Harrisburg to western Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio.

“We need to be prepared to cope with flash flooding, downed trees and anticipated, extended electrical outages,” he said.

Vogler added the commissioners’ action, to declare a state of emergency, must be ratified at a future meeting.

Melcer noted 1,600 National Guardsman have been activated, 900 of them in southeastern Pennsylvania, where the state’s greatest damage is expected.


Melcer also asked residents who lose electrical power not to call the 911 emergency number.

“We need that line open for emergencies if police or fire departments are needed.”

Melcer urged residents to contact the public utility company directly.

Calls will be taken at (888) LIGHTSS or (888) 544-4877.

Residents of Ellwood City, New Wilmington and Wampum boroughs, where the municipality owns the utility, should contact their electrical departments.

If power goes out, Melcer said, residents can expect a sustained outage.

“The last wind storm, in 2009, we saw sustained high winds for a brief period, but people were without electricity for four or five days afterward. Expect that will happen this time too.”

Utility companies throughout the Northeast, anticipating widespread service disruptions and extended outages, are calling in crews and equipment from as far away as Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.

Commissioner Steve Craig noted that because Lawrence County is in the projected path of the storm, all response resources are remaining here.

“We were told ‘See to your needs locally before sending assistance to the rest of the state,’” Craig said.


Tom Green, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, said Lawrence County can anticipate high wind but only two to three inches of rain.

Sustained high winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour with 60-mph gusts, is anticipated through Tuesday night. This could result in power outages as wet ground might cause trees to come down on power lines.

Green added fallen leaves could clog drains and contribute to flooding as water backs up.

Wind and rain is expected to let up by Tuesday afternoon, he said.

“This will be the biggest storm to hit western Pennsylvania since Hurricane Ivan in 2004,” Green said. The area experienced two days of rain resulting in about 11 inches accumulating.

“That was the greatest accumulation (of rain) we ever had at the Pittsburgh Airport,” he said. “We don’t expect that much this time.”

He noted rain is expected to continue for several days.