More than 36 hours after a shade tree and a utility pole came crashing across her Easton property, Caren Leonard remained a virtual prisoner at her house, with electrical wires strewn about her front yard and no word on when any of the wreckage would be removed.
For city Administrator Glenn Steckman, the lack of response from Met-Ed has been maddening. Steckman said Met-Ed workers didn't arrive in Easton until Wednesday morning, after city officials spoke to utility executives Tuesday night and relayed their dismay over the response to Sandy's destruction.
"It is a dangerous situation here," Leonard said Wednesday morning inside her Parsons Street home on College Hill. "I kind of expected people to be here yesterday. It's kind of surprising. An entire utility pole came down here. It's not just the wire."
Scott Surgeoner, a spokesman for FirstEnergy, Met-Ed's parent corporation, said 1,700 people are working to restore power throughout its territory in eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. He said crews have been on the road since Tuesday morning, but not necessarily in Easton.
For Easton residents, where Met-Ed estimated more than 65 percent of the households were without power Wednesday afternoon, the lack of electricity may sound familiar.
"We are concerned with how much longer power will be off," said Steckman, who lives in the West Ward and is also without power.
Met-Ed estimated that most people would have power in the Easton area by Monday, or Wednesday at the latest.
Power outages climbed in Easton on Wednesday, to 6,050 from about 5,000, but the added outages were due to Met-Ed crews' de-energizing some lines so city workers could remove trees and other debris, according to Steckman.
Entering the third day of widespread blackouts, residents in Easton and its suburbs — like many thousands more across the Lehigh Valley — continued to grapple with uncleared trees across roads and yards, and the big question of when their power would be turned back on.
The tree that toppled Monday night near Leonard's stately twin home clipped a section of her immediate neighbor's porch roof, crushed her neighbor's car and broke the back window of Leonard's van. It took with it a utility pole, leaving a tangle of wires in a chaotic scene that remained unchanged early Wednesday.
"At this point, I'm getting concerned," Leonard said. "Aside from the fact that we don't have power, this is dangerous."
Sandy left an expansive patchwork of damage that utility and public works crews were still struggling to assess. Even major streets hadn't gotten attention as Wednesday began in Easton: Washington Street, near where the Northampton County Courthouse sits, was blocked by a utility pole that snapped near the top, leaving a quarter of it hanging at a right angle.
Steckman said broken poles have been a big problem across the city, along with enormous trees that fell from the whipping gusts. The wind lifted part of the roof off a Washington Street nursing home, forcing a partial evacuation Tuesday. Steckman said some of the city's senior housing is running on generators.
Steckman said he thinks Sandy's destruction was at least as bad as last Halloween's snowstorm.
Those residents with power were often at odds to explain why they had it and their neighbors didn't. Directly across the street from Leonard, Kim Hopkins' lights stayed on, despite the destruction she could see out her front window.
"We have no idea," Hopkins said when asked why her family was spared.
She was in her living room when the tree came down, sending sparks flying.
"It felt like the Fourth of July around here," Hopkins said.
In Forks Township the number of power outages fell throughout the day Wednesday. Township officials said most properties had power back by Wednesday afternoon. In Palmer Township the number stayed above 5,000 households Wednesday.
Palmer resident Christine Gold sought refuge at the Barnes & Noble in Bethlehem Township off Route 33.
"I'll be honest with you," Gold said. "I got in the car to turn the heat on to blow-dry my hair."
Dave Colver, chairman of Palmer's Board of Supervisors, whose development has underground utilities, said he was satisfied with Met-Ed's response throughout the township. He said major incidents like a downed power line near Burger King on 25th Street required a lot of resources.
"There's no company or amount of people who could just fix everything," Colver said. "It happened. We'll pick up the pieces and like everybody else we'll move on."
The Lowe's on Freemansburg Avenue in Bethlehem Township posted a sign on the front door and two more signs at the customer service desk: "We are sold out of generators."
But that didn't stop power-less residents from asking.
"Every minute of every day we get a phone call," said Chad Roethlein, a store manager.
The Home Depot at the Palmer Town Center on 25th Street got a fresh stock of 200 generators at 5 p.m. Tuesday. They were gone within hours.
Wednesday morning on Paxinosa Avenue on College Hill, Stephanie McGinley's more-than-100-year-old white pine remained stretched across the road, where it had fallen after being uprooted by the wind. It too had taken a utility pole with it.
McGinley said she had "no idea, none at all," when her piece of the storm might be taken care of.
"I hope it's soon," she said. "This is a main thoroughfare into Forks Township, so it's been really difficult to get around."
Due to the prolonged outage, Easton Area School District and Lafayette College canceled classes for the week.
The Northampton County Courthouse and all county offices except for 24-hour essential operations will be closed Thursday. But the Election Office, at 670 Wolf Ave., will be open for absentee ballot processing.
Steckman said some of the trees Sandy felled were too big for city crews to manage and outside contractors were called for help.
"Some of those trees are monsters," Steckman said.
Meanwhile, McGinley and many others counted the blessings they have.
"We have no power. We have no heat, but we have water and we have a gas stove," she said. "It could have been a lot worse. [The tree] could have landed right on the house."
Surgeoner said Met-Ed isn't worried about making comparisons to previous storms and just wants to get everyone's lights back on.
"We are out working around the clock," Surgeoner said, "until that last customer is restored."
Shelters in Easton:
Salvation Army at 1110 Northampton St. Open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, closed Saturday, open Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food provided. 610-258-9531.
St. John's Lutheran Church at 330 Ferry St. Open Wednesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 5-7 p.m. for warmth, charging cellphones. Will feed families with children and those over 60 first, and anything remaining to others. 610-258-6119.
Greater Shiloh Church at 403 Pastor Fred Davis St. Open weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 484-541-1129.
Boys & Girls Club of Easton at 508 Charles St. Open Wednesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. People can charge cellphones, use restroom facilities and recreate. 484-239-2075.
Also available is the Red Cross shelter at 2121 City Line Avenue in Bethlehem for overnight services and showers. (Bring soap, towel, washcloth, pillow, blanket, medications, own supplies.) 610-865-4400.