The Lehigh Valley impact of Hurricane Sandy intensified Wednesday with the reports of two more storm-related deaths.
Also on Wednesday, 41,000 of the region's homes and businesses that lost power in the storm had electricity restored. But about 160,000 PPL and Met-Ed customers remained without power in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
A Lower Macungie Township woman died from the fumes from a portable gas generator left running in the garage attached to her home, and a South Whitehall Township woman died from exposure in her yard, according to the Lehigh County coroner's office.
PPL spokesman Joe Nixon said the utility expects to have everyone's power back by Sunday night, but according to the utility's website, some areas, including parts of Bethlehem and Williams Township, can expect power to be back on tonight.
Once key public health and safety customers are back online, Nixon said the utility prioritizes its restoration efforts based on the complexity of the repair job and the number of customers it will restore.
"We look to repair the damage that will have the biggest impact first," he said. "If there is damage to transmission lines or high volume distribution lines, we will go to that first. We rank the remaining jobs based on the numbers of customers affected."
Nixon said PPL is trying to repair 3,300 problems over a 10,000 square mile area.
The Valley's hurricane death toll rose to four. Tammy Kerosetz, 48, of the 3600 block of Schoeneck Road, was pronounced dead in her home 5:08 p.m. Tuesday of carbon monoxide poisoning, but the coroner's office she died before 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Theresa Schlitzer, 86, was found dead in the yard of her home in the 3400 block of Route 309 Tuesday morning.
She was pronounced dead at 9:45 a.m., and the coroner's office attributed her death to hypothermia from prolonged exposure that began some time after 10:30 p.m. Monday.
Julia Gravatt, who watches her grandchildren next door, said Schlitzer lived alone and probably went outside to check on something because she took care of her property herself.
"She was an independent woman," said Gravatt. "I saw her just about a week ago on a big John Deere [lawn mower]."
Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said Schlitzer had no injuries from a fall.
Their deaths bring the Lehigh Valley area's death toll from Hurricane Sandy to four.
Robert Mills, 17, of Wind Gap, died in Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest after crashing an all-terrain vehicle into a fallen tree on W. Center Street in Plainfield Township 9:30 p.m. Monday, and a 62-year-old Berks County man, Gerald Witman, was killed when a tree fell on his Pike Township home near Boyertown.
At least three other people in Pennsylvania suffered storm-related deaths Monday, and the U.S. death toll rose has risen to 50, according to officials.
The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy ranged from inconvenient for those who had to scramble for find hot coffee to life-threatening for those who depend on electrical medical devices.
Even for those who didn't lose electricity, didn't suffer property damage, didn't lose a loved one, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, won't be forgotten.
Gov. Tom Corbett said the state had "dodged a bullet" despite the massive power outages, nine reported deaths and damage to buildings from wind and water.
Around 1.25 million Pennsylvania utility customers, primarily in southeastern Pennsylvania, lost power by Monday. Nearly 1,000 people sought refuge in one of the dozens of emergency shelters opened in about half of the state's 67 counties.
PPL Electric Utilities and First Energy's Met-Ed, which serve most of the Lehigh Valley region, are slowly restoring power to its 160,071 customers still out Wednesday night in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
From some, repairs will be extremely slow — more than a week or as late as Nov. 7.
This has increased demand for portable generators among those willing to pay and those that are not.
As word spread that Cabela's near Hamburg in Berks County received a shipment of 700 generators Wednesday, a line started forming at the door since most other stores sold out of them before the storm.
Doylestown police said a generator operating a traffic signal at Swamp Road and North Street was stolen Wednesday morning.
The Chaar store, an animal feed and supply store on Airport Road near Allentown, reports on its Facebook page that it planned to reopen Wednesday, but its portable generator was stolen.
"Can't wait until we review the security tapes," the store's post says.
Chaar says it now plans to wait until power is restore to reopen.
U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., and state Lt.Gov. Jim Cawley visited PPL's Emergency Command Center in Allentown on Wednesday.
As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, PPL had 227,768 customers without power throughout its 29-county territory compared to 450,000 at 2 a.m. Monday. Of those still without power, about half or 115,238 are in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Met-Ed reported that more than 13,000 households in the Easton area were without power, including 50 percent of the city itself. Glenn Steckman, city administrator, said enormous trees fell all over the city, especially on College Hill, some too big for city crews to handle.
"Some of these trees are monsters," Steckman said, "100-foot-tall trees."
Steckman said the city urged Met-Ed, which supplies power to the eastern parts of Northampton County, to get crews into the city. He said the first Met-Ed workers arrived Wednesday morning.
"We are concerned with how much longer power will be off," said Steckman, who lives in the city's West Ward and is also without power.
Met-Ed at 8 p.m. Wednesday reported 115,000 customers out throughout its coverage area in Pennsylvania, including 44,833 in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Of those, about 13,000 are in the Easton area.
Easton city administrator Glenn Steckman said half of the city's households or about 5,000 or 6,000 are without power, and the first Met-Ed crews arrived in the city Wednesday morning.
"We are concerned with how much longer power will be off," Steckman, who lives in the city's West Ward and is also without power.
A spokesman for First Energy, which owns Met-Ed, said repair crews have been out since Tuesday throughout the company's service area.
"We are working around the clock until that last customer is restored," spokesman Scott Surgeoner said.
First Energy also owns New Jersey Power Central Power & Light, which is trying to restore power to nearly 1 million customers, including about 91,500 in Warren and Hunterdon counties.
PPL and Met-Ed also are working to restore power to 29,000 customers in Berks County and 43,000 in Monroe County.
In addition, PPL has about 14,000 customers out in Schuylkill and Carbon counties.
In Southeastern Pennsylvania, Peco had 420,000 customers without power as of Wednesday. Of those, about 75 percent are in Montgomery and Bucks counties. Peco has declared it the worst power outage in its history after restoring to more than 430,000 customers since the storm began.
Bucks County is perhaps the hardest hit county in the state as far as the number of customers without power, which as of Wednesday totaled about 201,000 customers —173,000 Peco, 22,069 PPL and 6,015 Met-Ed.
Although downgraded to a post-tropical storm from a hurricane just before striking near Atlantic City about 8 p.m. Monday, Sandy left a huge swath of destruction as waterways swelled and surged along the coast. In Pennsylvania, including the Lehigh Valley region, the wind brought most of the destruction rather than the rain.
The National Weather Service shows 1.43 inches of rain fell at the Lehigh Valley International Airport near Allentown over the three-day storm, but a weather spotter measured a wind gust of 81 mph Monday night in South Allentown.
No major flooding issues were reported or expected in the aftermath of the storm, which as of Wednesday has been downgraded to a low pressure system as it continued moving north through western Pennsylvania Wednesday.
All of the weather warnings for Pennsylvaina expired with the storm's exodus toward New York.
Corbett is expected to inspect damage across the state by helicopter Wednesday, but on Tuesday he believed the damage would not be as severe as from last year's Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
In the Lehigh Valley region, the near hurricane-strength wind gusts felled trees and limbs fell into homes, across roads and on power lines and blew away roofs.
Parts of Easton's College Hill neighborhood re inaccessible because the trees that fell are two large for city crews to remove, Steckman said.
Allentown Fire Chief Robert Scheirer said widespread wind damage resulted in more than 60 calls Monday night from residents and business owners with lost or damaged roofs.
In the 600 block of Front Street, wind ripped a roof from an entire row of apartments, and the roof at the city's Mack South Fire Station in the 1900 block of Lehigh Street was also damaged in the storm, Scheirer said.
Few injuries were reported, but five city residents were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a generator they were using inside their home, he said.
Local governments, schools and colleges remained shuttered, with Lehigh University canceling classes for the remainder of the week. Kutztown and DeSales universities and Cedar Crest, Moravian and Lafayette colleges said they will remain closed Wednesday. Muhlenberg College and Northampton County Community College, except for its Easton campus, reopened Wednesday. However, very few students showed up Wednesday.
Many area school districts, including Saucon Valley, Easton Area, Northampton Area, Nazareth Area and Bangor Area school districts canceled classes for a third day.
Major hospitals stayed open throughout the storm, but there was sporadic activity at outpatient and physician offices related to power outages. Hospital officials asked patients to check their web sites for updates on their satellite facilities.
In Easton, the Praxis Alzheimer's facility and Easton Nursing Home on Washington Street evacuated residents to another location because of roof damage, Mayor Sal Panto said.
The Miller-Keystone Blood Center also put out a plea for A-positive, A-negative, O-positive and O-negative blood donors and platelet donors.
RESPONSE AND RECOVERY
Life in some places slowly began to return to normal Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Some retailers, such as the Lehigh Valley Mall, reopened after closing early Monday.
The Route 309 business corridor through Quakertown and Richland Township reopened Tuesday night with overflowing parking lots.
Lafayette Ambassador, the Valley's No. 3 bank, opened seven of its 23 branches as of Tuesday afternoon. PNC and Wells Fargo banks also said they'd be opening most branches Wednesday.
Many banks have reopened and are waiving fees for overdrafts and using ATMs at other banks.
County voter registration offices also are extending the deadlines to obtain absentee ballots under an executive order from the governor.
All major highways were open at normal speed limits, but dozens of secondary roads remained closed because of downed trees and wires that are being removed as power is being restored.
LANTA restored bus and van service Wednesday morning after transporting only medical patients Monday and Tuesday.
After a full day in which travel from Lehigh Valley International Airport was grounded, Delta and United resumed flights. U.S. Air and Frontier canceled all of their Tuesday flights, said Susan Kittle, director of External Affairs for LVIA.
— Staff writers Tim Darragh, Daniel Patrick Sheehan, Tracy Jordan, Samantha Marcus, Sam Kennedy, JD Malone, Emily Opilo, Scott Kraus, Spencer Soper, John Micek, Dan Hartzell, Matt Assad and Frank Warner, and The Associated Press contributed to this story.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times