Storm stroll An eye on downtown Lititz during Hurricane Sandy

By on October 31, 2012

By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

Downtown Lititz was supposed to be packed with costumed marchers and curb-perched children scrambling for candy treats launched from passing floats.

But there would be no Halloween Parade Monday night, a cancellation prompted by the frightening prospect of an approaching hurricane dubbed "Frankenstorm." Instead, heeding the advice of emergency officials, citizens retreated to their homes with seemingly every loaf of bread and every ounce of bottled water available on grocery store shelves.

The borough was a ghost town by 4 p.m. Chatty leaves rustling in the wind announced the approach of our unwelcome guest. Sandy was near.

Over at the Lititz Fire Co., 21 volunteers were preparing to spend the night at the West Main Street station, ready to take on any emergency the hurricane could throw their way. As the day’s light dwindled, wind gusts began to intensify, Lititz Run was on the rise, a public works employee cleared leaves and debris from downtown storm drains, the last handful of cars on Route 501 seemed to be hustling home for the night, and other than a group of hooded girls walking a black lab to their rendition of "Singin’ in the Rain," most had found cover for what was expected to be a storm as bad as, or worse than, last year’s Hurricane Irene/Tropical Storm Lee combo whose raging waters drowned a Lebanon woman on Route 322 in Elizabeth Township.

It’s 5 p.m., and amid the barren, rain-soaked landscape of Main and Broad, a few businesses sprinkled throughout the downtown decided to keep their doors open for the benefit of their bravest customers.

"Pizza, beer and drugs — the trifecta!" said Tim Rohrer, pharmacist at McElroy’s Pharmacy, jokingly, after being told that in addition to the pharmacy, Roma Pizza and the Parkview Hotel were the only other downtown storefronts with their lights on as the storm neared. He was on duty with Barbara Wanger and Terry Staab.

Over at Roma, where owner Vito Randazzo had just provided discounted pizzas for the Lititz firefighters’ all-nighter, the ovens were cooling after a busy day … but not before the N.Y. Giants fan turned the screws on this Dallas Cowboys fan in the wake of Sunday’s "game of inches." The ribbing was good-natured, of course. Unfortunately, Eli Manning would have to return to home to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, which unleashed the most significant flooding in New York City history.

Next stop, the busiest place in downtown Lititz during the storm — The Parkview. Among the patrons was Kaitlin Bos, who was there with friends to celebrate her 21st birthday.

"Mother Nature wants to join you on your birthday," Kaitlin said, regarding her friends’ assessment of her memorable milestone.

"I don’t mind it," she said. "She’s invited."

The Warwick 2010 grad pointed out that weather phenomena and her birthday seem to go hand-in-hand. Last year, Halloween (and her birthday) was celebrated during an off-season snowstorm.

What’s in store for her 22nd?

"Earthquake … or aliens," she said.

Bos is currently studying Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Temple in Philadelphia, and she happened to be in town Monday night in an attempt to elude Sandy’s far-reaching grasp. She said Philly police declared a state of emergency Sunday night.

"Everything was shut down," she said, "and school was canceled until Wednesday."

People were eager to get out of the city, she continued during her exclusive birthday interview at the cozy table next to the radiator, but those without vehicles were forced to weather the storm because SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) suspended all service at 12:30 a.m. Monday due to the predicted path of the hurricane.

Her parents’ full pantry was an additional incentive to evacuate, Bos admitted. "They’ve been baking all day," she said between sips of her birthday beer.

The plan for the remainder of her storm-themed 21st was to spend a little more time with friends at the Parkview, and then finish the evening at home with Mom and Dad.

Checking in with the Lititz Fire Company crew at midnight, the evening was unexpectedly quiet (minus a "downed wires" call at 9:15).

"It was pretty nasty for awhile," said Chief Ron Oettel, describing the entangled mess of metal and live wires.

Shifting winds redirected huge red sparks toward Hartz Physical Therapy on South Broad Street, and the concern of a significant fire kept the Lititz engine on-scene for two hours. PPL was called to the scene and continued to work on restoring electricity after the fire company returned to station.

Despite the serious nature of that incident, Lititz Fire Co. No. 1 only received three calls up to that point. Regardless, Chief Oettel said his crew remained committed to spending the night at the station, pointing out that the storm hadn’t ended and you just never know when the next major call is coming. More DOWNTOWN, page A4

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