The waiting was the hardest part With Halloween parade canceled, Lititz braced for ‘Frankenstorm’
By: MELISSA HUNNEFIELD Record Express Staff, Staff Writer
Lititz, once again, was spared the full force of a devastating storm.
Last year, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee put Ephrata under water, but missed Lititz. This week, hurricane-turned-tropical depression Sandy devastated New Jersey and New York, but quietly (relatively speaking) passed through Lititz Monday night.
Other than a few power outages on Keller Drive, and a few downed branches, the storm’s impact on Lititz was minimal. Perhaps the biggest deal for locals was the first-ever cancellation of the Lions Club Halloween Parade.
"The Lititz Halloween Parade, for Monday night, has officially been canceled," said the e-mail from Gaylord Poling, president of Venture Lititz. "There is no rain date since Tuesday was their backup date. Please pass the information to others as appropriate."
Immediately the word went out to the Record Express Facebook page, and it spread quickly to Main Street Lititz, The Lititz Historical Society and the infamous "Remember When… in Lititz, Pa" crowd.
Parade organizer Dawn Rismiller spent much of her Saturday fielding phone calls from folks concerned about the fate of the Lititz Lions Halloween Parade.
The parade dates to 1949, and people have been working hard at assembling floats and creating their kids’ costumes, so canceling it was not a decision lightly reached.
"This is a Lititz tradition, and kids really look forward to it," Rismiller said, but added, "We want to be responsible… We would never put anybody in danger."
Hurricane Sandy was not a laughing matter — at least not in the Caribbean, where, as of 1 p.m. Monday afternoon, 67 people had lost their lives due to the storm. Cuba and Haiti were the hardest hit.
On Monday, Facebook was bombarded with photos of the famous fishing pier in Ocean City, Md. washed out to sea, pieces of the Atlantic City, N.J. boardwalk floating down flooded streets, and those who failed to evacuate when ordered standing in waist-deep water begging for assistance.
Agriculture Secretary George Greig urged farmers, particularly in eastern Pennsylvania, to prepare for the potential of heavy rains, flooding and high winds related to Hurricane Sandy.
"Hurricane Sandy has the potential to cause significant damage to crops and property," said Greig. "Farmers should prepare now to minimize losses."
Additionally, Rear Admiral Tim Alexander, Commander Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, ordered Naval Support Activity Mechanicsburg to set Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness I (COR 1). COR 1 means to be prepared for destructive winds which are associated with a tropical system and are possible within 12 hours.
With a rare mix of three big merging weather systems over a densely populated region, experts predict at least $1 billion in damage. Due to being a mish-mash of three bigger systems and its proximity to Halloween, Hurricane Sandy was nicknamed "Frankenstorm."
"It’s looking like a very serious storm that could be historic," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the forecasting service Weather Underground. "Mother Nature is not saying, ‘Trick or treat.’ It’s just going to give tricks."
One by one, area schools announced they would be closed Monday and Tuesday. Warwick, Linden Hall, Lititz Area Mennonite School and Lititz Christian School all jumped on the bandwagon.
Warwick School District urged parents that haven’t already set up a Fast New Account to go to their website, warwicksd.org, click on the Fast News icon at the bottom right of the front page and follow the directions.
For three days, shoppers descended on area stores, hoarding candles, flashlights, batteries, milk, coolers and other storm necessities.
"Water’s holding out fine," Bruce Kade, Stauffer’s of Kissel Hill’s general manager reported on Monday afternoon. "But the flashlights and batteries are long gone."
On Monday, President Obama signed an emergency declaration for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and ordered federal aid to supplement commonwealth and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from Hurricane Sandy.
"Because of the nature of this storm," the President remarked, "we are certain that this is going to be a slow-moving process through a wide swath of the country, and millions of people are going to be affected."
Phone calls went out from Pennsylvania Power & Light to thousands of households on Sunday afternoon and evening, warning of potential and possible power outages that could last one week or more. PPL also assured that they have brought in an additional 1,500 workers to help with the arduous work of restoring lost power.
"The fact is that a lot of these emergency crews are not going to be able to get into position to start restoring power until some of these winds have died down," Obama cautioned," and because of the nature of this storm, that may take several days."
"This is going to be a big storm. It’s going to be a difficult storm," the President added. "The great thing about America is when we go through tough times like this we all pull together. We look out for our friends. We look out for our neighbors. And we set aside whatever issues we may have otherwise to make sure that we respond appropriately and with swiftness. And that’s exactly what I anticipate is going to happen here."
Late Monday evening, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has advised all residents living downstream of the Speedwell Forge Lake Dam in Elizabeth Township to evacuate immediately.
This included about 80 homes in the low-lying area along Hammer and Cocalico creeks in parts of Elizabeth, Warwick, Ephrata and West Earl townships. Residents who needed shelter went to Manheim Township Middle School.
The evacuation order was a precaution, said Randall Gockley, the county’s emergency management coordinator.
With coolers full of ice, fridges full of milk and eggs and flashlights loaded with fresh batteries, central PA hunkered down for the night and waited.
The morning after the storm found Lititz and Manheim fared well compared to our friends and relatives living along the coast, or in New York City.
Overnight, local shelters had only minimal amounts of people; the American Red Cross shelter in Manheim Township reportedly housed 20.
Five Pennsylvanians were reported dead due to the storm, yet one death was reported here in Lancaster County. A 74-year-old Manheim man died from multiple injuries he suffered while cutting down a tree Sunday in preparation for Sandy. His identity has not yet been released.
Lititz Police Chief William Seace reported that there was one street closure due to the storm; the first block of W. Marion St. was shut down due to a fallen tree branch and severed service line.
In Lititz Borough, 73 customers lost power. As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, 57 had been restored. According to Lititz Fire Chief Ron Oettel, most of the outages were centered in the Keller Drive area.
Manheim Borough faired better: six customers lost power and four were restored by 2 p.m Tuesday.
Lancaster County averaged 3.25 inches of rain with gusts of wind reaching 55 miles per hour at the height of the storm. Our lot pales compared to Atlantic City, N.J., who received 8.01 inches of rain and 77 mph gusts.
The Speedwell Forge Dam did not fail.
"Overall, we did dodge a bullet," said Randy Gockley, the county’s emergency management coordinator.
Fire companies were called to pump out some county basements but the calls were not numerous.
"For the most part, the creeks and streams behaved themselves," Gockley said. "We had very few reports of any water in homes whatsoever."
Gockley said the county would compile a damage amount soon, but he did not guess it would come close to the more than $30 million in damages caused here by the one-two punch of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in Sept. 2011.
Despite a minimal amount of flooding, the Manheim Borough Authority announced that there is not a boil water advisory in affect for the Manheim Borough Authority area. Residents are asked to conserve water, however, due to high flows at the waste water treatment facility.
Manheim residents with questions or concerns should call the Authority at 665-2737 or the Manheim Borough office at 665-2461.
The storm alert for Hurricane Sandy was officially called off for Lancaster County at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.
Trick-or-treat night still officially is on schedule, according to the Lancaster Inter-Municipal Committee that coordinates it, but individual municipalities may make their own decisions about it. Those with concerns or questions should contact their specific borough offices.
Many residents vocally expressed disappointment that "Frankenstorm" didn’t live up to the hype. Dawn Zielinski, a Lititz resident, responded:
"While the storm did not live up to the hype here, it did live up to the hype on other areas and it could have done the same destruction here," Zielinski said. "Instead of complaining that the storm did not live up to the hype, this area’s residents — young and old — need to be thankful it didn’t." More STORM, page A3