Lititz lucks out Hurricane Irene not as bad as anticipated here, but Brickerville House takes big hit

By on August 31, 2011

By: JESSICA ROSE SPANGLER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

Photo by Preston Whitcraft
On East Third Avenue, Lititz, a tree fell into the street, taking down utility wires with it. The fall also resulted in wires being pulled from a home. With the exception of this one home, power was restored to customers on Third Avenue by Tuesday morning.Photo by Preston Whitcraft
On East Third Avenue, Lititz, a tree fell into the street, taking down utility wires with it. The fall also resulted in wires being pulled from a home. With the exception of this one home, power was restored to customers on Third Avenue by Tuesday morning.

While Hurricane Irene left at least 33 dead, millions without electricity and billions of dollars in damage in its wake, the Lititz area managed to escape the brunt of its wrath.

Many area residents experienced power outages on Sunday, some stretching into Monday or later into the week. The Brickerville House Family Restaurant, at the intersection of Routes 322 and 501, suffered significant financial loss due to the blackouts.

The restaurant’s power went out Sunday morning around 8 a.m., according to Tony Agadis, co-owner.

"We’ve called PPL a few times and they say that no one can come out until Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest," he said.

Agadis noted that other area businesses and half of the specialty shops behind the restaurant had power by Monday afternoon, yet the other half of the shops and the restaurant itself did not. He estimates that this storm is going to cost the restaurant $10,000 in food waste and lost revenue, but there was no physical damage to the buildings.

Because of their frustration with PPL, Agadis and his brother George, co-owner, have contacted area senators and other government officials to voice their concerns. Tony mentioned that Elizabeth Township has been very helpful with everything, but the power outage was out of their control.

According to restaurant manager Leann Knauss, power was restored to the facility at 10:30 Tuesday morning. The restaurant re-opened for business at noon the same day. They were able to save some of their food by taking it to other restaurants the Agadis brothers own. A lot of it was a loss.

PPL spokesman Kurt Blumenau responded to The Brickerville House’s concerns by saying, "We don’t prioritize jobs based on business versus residential. (Places of public) safety come first, followed by jobs that will get the highest number of customers back online the quickest. There are multiple reasons that the restaurant can be out of power and their neighbors are not — things like connections and other electrical problems. It’s not uncommon to see some homes in a neighborhood without power and their neighbors with it."

PPL also commented that they did reserve most of their contractors to help them with this hurricane. This reservation allowed PPL to have additional work forces to help restore all of the power, preventing the contractors from helping other utility companies. Additionally, PPL sister-employees from states like Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana are in the area assisting with the restoration process.

"With thousands being restored every hour, PPL Electric Utilities has power back on for two-thirds of all customers affected by Irene over the past 36 hours. As of 5 a.m. (Tuesday), about 230,000 customers were restored with 51,000 customers remaining without power. Based on the number of customer outages, Hurricane Irene ranks as the second-worst storm to hit PPL Electric Utilities’ service area over the past 20 years, trailing only Hurricane Isabel of 2003, which affected 495,000 customers," reported a PPL press release.

As of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, about 25,000 PPL customers, including 766 in Lancaster County, remained without service, out of more than 300,000 who were affected. Full service had been restored to everyone in Lititz, while six residents in Warwick Township and one in Elizabeth were still without power.

Besides a few down trees, Lititz Borough did not experience too much damage. The two largest problem areas were on Cedar Street and East Third Avenue.

A large tree on the 400 block of Cedar Street in Lititz was blown down with the limbs hitting a home, but damage was reported to be minimal, according to Lititz Borough Public Works Superintendent Gary Rynier.

Additionally, on East Third Avenue a tree fell into the street, taking utility wires with it. The fall also resulted in wires being pulled from a home. By Tuesday morning, almost everyone in this section of town had their power restored, according to Lititz Chief of Police William Seace.

Seace also added that a tree broke on the 300 block of East Main Street, but damage was minimal in that incident as well.

Lititz Springs Park, often a flood victim during major storms, was relatively unscathed. The stream remained within its banks and just a few limbs fell. Warwick football players volunteered to clear debris from the park grounds.

The storm did severely impact Sunday church services. Attendance at Lititz Moravian’s 8 a.m. service was 22, and 61 at 10:30 a.m. The church had 221 total the previous Sunday, for a drop of 62 percent.

As the storm calmed late Sunday morning, clean-up in Lititz was handled with relative ease.

"I feel my guys did an outstanding job keeping up with all of the calls… We spent most of (Monday) sweeping the streets to clear them of small twigs and leaves, but most of the larger clean-up efforts were finished (Sunday)," commented Rynier. He noted that the borough did not take any special precautions for the storm and didn’t need to bring in any additional assistance.

The Lititz police and fire companies were well prepared for the projected category three hurricane. On Saturday evening, the departments held a joint meeting to be sure their preparation and response efforts were in line with each other. They arranged to have Lititz Elementary as an emergency shelter, if needed, and area nursing homes were on stand-by to take in those in need — especially those that would need oxygen or other medical items in case of a prolonged power outage.

"Everyone was very cooperative; they stayed off the streets and heeded the warnings. Everyone was very responsible. The storm may have been over-hyped by the media, but it’s better to be over-prepared," noted Lititz Fire Company Chief and Lititz Mayor Ron Oettel.

Seace emphasized a job-well-done by the Lititz Public Works Department for getting everything cleaned-up in a timely manor; and to PPL, Blue Ridge and Windstream for having crews out working on down lines since Sunday morning.

In Rothsville’s Twin Brook Mobile Home Park, a tree fell across Park Lane, hitting a car and a home. The home wasn’t damaged, but the windshield and rear window were broken in the car, as well as a crack in the roof of the 2002 Kia, reported Rothsville Fire Chief Sam Young. He also said the the fire department didn’t make any special preparations for this storm versus others.

In Elizabeth Township, a few pre-storm preparations, such as gassing up the equipment and sharpening chain saws, were taken. Rodney May, Brickerville Fire Company member and Elizabeth Township supervisor, said there were a few down trees and minor flooding on Snavely Mill Road, but most everything had been cleared by Monday morning. Township officials spent the rest of Monday sweeping the streets and clearing minor limbs from roadways.

"Dennis Trauss, the emergency coordinator for Elizabeth Township, did a wonderful job. He was busy all (Sunday) coordinating the efforts to make sure everything got accomplished," May said.

Much like nor’easter snow storms, residents flocked to area grocery stores on Friday and Saturday to stock up on necessities — milk, bread, etc. But according to Stauffers of Kissel Hill and Weiser’s Market, no shortages were experienced.

Irene also messed with those planning end-of-summer beach getaways.

"We were very disappointed last Thursday when we heard that Ocean City, Md. was being evacuated due to Hurricane Irene," said former Record Express editor Rick Reitz, who had been planning his family’s annual vacation. "We had already booked our place for the week, and since we opted out of hurricane insurance, we were at risk of losing everything we paid. So instead of driving down to the shore on Saturday like we planned, we were instead watching very closely what was going on in OC when the hurricane arrived.

"My parents were hit pretty hard by the storm at their home in Camp Hill, with two trees hitting their house and another demolishing their pickup truck. That put things into perspective for us. This was a dangerous storm and playing it safe was the right thing to do, and losing a little bit of vacation time is just a minor inconvenience."

As Lititz area residents breath a collective sigh of relief, we may not be out of the woods yet. Tropical Storm Katia is currently building strength as it heads toward the Caribbean Sea. More IRENE, page A15

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