Hurricane Sandy left the Lehigh Valley and Poconos regions in the dark and with a few less trees but with little damage compared to the beating suffered in neighboring New Jersey.
The only death reported by local emergency and police officials as of Tuesday morning was in Berks County. A 62-year-old man was killed when a tree fell on a home in Pike Township near Boyertown. The national death toll from the storm is about 15, including two others in Pennsylvania – an 8-year-old Susquehanna county boy hit by a tree limb and a Lancaster County man who fell while trimming a tree.
Numerous road closures throughout the region are due mostly to downed utility poles, wires and trees, but a few have closed because of minor street flooding which is expected to subside with the rain.
As of 6:30 a.m., PPL and FirstEnergy-owned Met-Ed were reporting about 235,000 customers were without power in Northamtpon and Lehigh counties.
Statewide, PPL has about 395,855 customers without power, including about 21,900 in Bucks County, 13,390 in Carbon County, 43,800 in Monroe County, 10,500 in Montgomery County and 19,000 in Schuylkill County.
Met-Ed also has about 96,000 customers without power in Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey.
Locally, officials did not report any major incidents. Nursing supervisors at two area hospitals, St. Luke's Hospital-Fountain Hill and Easton Hospital, said early Tuesday they had not treated any storm victims.
PennDOT reported dozens of roads closed, including a section of eastbound Route 22 between Route 33 and the 13th Street exit. So many roads were being closed that crews were running out of barricades.
The state Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission urged drivers to stay off the roads if possible and lowered the speed limit to 45 mph on major highways, including Interstates 78 and 80 and Routes 22 and 33.
Three house fires also were reported in Bucks County, including a home in the 1300 block of Old Bethlehem Pike near Quakertown and homes in Tinicum Township and Chalfton. Though it was not immediately clear if they were linked to the storm, and emergency radio dispatcher said no injuries were reported in the fires.
Officials have warned people to prepare to be without electricity for an extended period.
"Restoring power to all of our customers in an efficient fashion is our top priority during this dangerous storm, and we urge customers to remain safe as we work through the restoration process," said Steven E. Strah of FirstEnergy in a prepared statement. , Met-Ed's parent company. "High winds and heavy rains will make debris and flooding real hazards, not only throughout the storm's duration, but also in its aftermath. If lines are down, please stay well away until crews can arrive to make the area safe."
Residents in western Lehigh County were warned that if power goes out, residents would lose water service because the Lehigh County Authority has electric-powered pumps. In an electronic message to customers, the authority advised residents to stock up on a three-day supply of water. Other large water suppliers did not anticipate problems from the storm.
Angel Gillette, public information officer for Northampton County emergency management, said people without electricity should stay put because it's too dangerous to travel now, with winds knocking down trees and power lines and tearing off siding and pieces of roofs. Halloween decorations have become projectiles in the storm.
"Some structural damage is being reported, but that's limited," Gillette said.
The heavy winds also are keeping power crews from repairing the damage immediately, she said.
"There will come a time when they won't be able to be out there," Gillette said. "Folks are going to have to start planning for long-term power outages."
Power crews have been strategically placed throughout PPL's service area, spokesman Joe Nixon said. In addition to its own employees, the company brought in about 1,500 line workers from out of state.
In advance of Sandy, PPL canceled vacation time for operations personnel, requested help if necessary from another PPL Corp.-owned utility in Kentucky and asked its local contractors to be on the ready. Since last October's snow storm that left thousands without power for an extended period,, PPL has upgraded its customer service systems to handle increased call volume and expanded tree trimming efforts.
Hydrologic models by the National Weather Services forecast no major flooding along the Delaware or Lehigh Rivers, or even along the flood-prone spots such as the Jordan Creek in Allentown. However, Bethlehem officials say they expect minor flooding along the Monocacy Creek in Bethlehem.
"Anytime you we get this amount of rain, we expect some flooding along the [Colonial Industrial Quarter] and Conestoga Street," said Public Works Director, Mike Alkhal. "But honestly, we don't expected it to be worse than in past years."
Sandy lost her hurricane status just before making landfall Monday night, but the storm continued its assault with powerful winds and heavy rain.
The storm blew ashore about 8 p.m. five miles southwest of Atlantic City, according to the National Hurricane Center. It did not pinpoint landfall to a specific town due to the system's nebulous shape and size, but it downgraded Hurricane Sandy to a post-tropical cyclone.
President Obama issued emergency declarations for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia.
The size of the storm was so great that the high wind warning stretched from Philadelphia to the Ohio border.
Gov. Tom Corbett said 33 counties issued emergency declarations and 27 opened emergency operations centers.
"We are there and we are prepared to assist counties wherever they need help," he said,
The Pennsylvania National Guard activated 750 soldiers and expects to have a total of 1,600 placed on active duty to deal with the likely damage. Guard spokesman Staff Sgt. Matthew Jones says 50 guardsmen had already been on duty since Friday and 800 more based in Pittsburgh and Scranton expect to be activated by noon.
The American Red Cross of the Greater Lehigh Valley opened shelters at UGI, 2121 City Line Road in Bethlehem on Monday and at the Agricultural Complex at Allentown Fairgrounds at 17th and Chew streets early Tuesday.
South Whitehall Township also is operating an emergency shelter at Troxell School, 2219 N. Cedar Crest Blvd. with a shelter next door for pets. Owners should bring enough for a week, vaccination records and any medications.
In Bucks County, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross opened a shelter in at the Palisades High School. The pet-friendly shelter has cots for at least 100 people.
ESSENTIAL SERVICES, SCHOOLS, TRANSPORTATION AND BUSINESSES
Most of the school districts, businesses and services closed on Monday remained closed Tuesday. The Allentown, Bethlehem Area, Easton Area, Parkland and East Penn school districts quickly canceled classes for Tuesday, with others following suit.
Hospitals remained open, but St. Luke's Health Network closed outpatient clinics and physicians offices. Hospice patients were evacuated to the main hospital in Fountain Hill. Coordinated Health Care on Demand walk-in centers, clinics and outpatient locations closed. At Pocono Medical Center in East Stroudsburg, outpatient facilities are closed through Tuesday, and the PMC Immediate Care Centers closed and will tentatively open at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
LANTA suspended bus service through Tuesday except for van service to dialysis centers and major medical purposes.
All flights from Lehigh Valley International Airport have been canceled until at least mid-day Tuesday, said airport Executive Director Charles Everett Jr.
"We just had the police survey the entire terminal area and there were no stranded passengers," Everett said. "We are conscious that some people may get dropped off at the airport, not realizing their flight has been canceled. For those people, we have made arrangements to bus them to a local hotel, or some other place that's relatively close. At this point, all passengers should check the status of their flight with their air carrier, before heading to the airport."
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said U.S. nuclear plants are built to sustain hurricane force winds, but the agency sent additional inspectors to a host of plants up and down the East Coast, including PPL's Susquehanna plant. It's one of more than two dozen in Sandy's path, but PPL spokesman Joe Scopelliti said the company is well-prepared.
"The reactor building has got 12 feet of concrete and steel between where the fuel is and the outside, it is very robust building," he said.
The plant will shut down if its loses external power, but the utility has five diesel generators and a battery backup system ready to power pumps that would cool the reactor during a shutdown.
Most businesses closed Monday afternoon and remained closed Tuesday morning.
The Lehigh Valley Mall, Promenade Shops, South Mall and the Palmer Park Mall are among retail centers that closed.
The state liquor stores and driver's license centers and most banks remain closed Tuesday.
Reporters Riley Yates, John Micek, Scott Kraus, Nicole Radzievich", Sam Kennedy, Matt Assad, Dan Hartzell, Adam Clark, Samantha Marcus and Emily Opilo and the Associated Press contributed to this story.