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Superstorm Sandy spares much of Mt. Pleasant

| Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, 9:07 a.m.
Caution tape hangs Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 near the rising rapids at the Jacobs Creek waterfall at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Mt. Pleasant Township, Westmoreland County. The tape was placed by emergency responders to prevent passersby from walking to close to the sink hole raging waters spurred on by Superstorm Sandy. 
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Mt. Pleasant Journal
Caution tape hangs Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 near the rising rapids at the Jacobs Creek waterfall at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Mt. Pleasant Township, Westmoreland County. The tape was placed by emergency responders to prevent passersby from walking to close to the sink hole raging waters spurred on by Superstorm Sandy. Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal

When asked to estimate the degree of destruction which historic Superstorm Sandy had on Mt. Pleasant as compared with other areas, borough Mayor Jerry Lucia said residents and business owners in the tiny municipality dodged an enormous bullet, so to speak.

“We were actually very lucky,” said Lucia, who is also the borough's longtime volunteer fire chief, regarding the fact that — short of a few flooded basements — no major damage was done to borough homes or businesses.

The damage was so minimal, Lucia said, that Wednesday's Halloween Parade was still scheduled to take place in the borough.

“It's still on,” he said.

Elsewhere, flooding — not the predicted power outages — was the primary problem in the region.

“For Pennsylvania, it was probably not as bad as it could have been,” Gov. Tom Corbett said.

In Mt. Pleasant Township, Jacobs Creek crested at two feet above normal Tuesday and receded a foot by Wednesday morning at the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Laurelville, officials said. No flooding was reported there.

However, a sink hole formed Tuesday next to the waterfall area behind the camp's office which grew significantly in size as of Wednesday.

Yellow caution tape was placed around the area of the sinkhole to prevent passersby from getting anywhere near it. The roar of the creek was audible when it normally trickles calmly through that area.

Brush Run. which is separated by state Route 31 between the Lenox Glass facility and Mt. Joy Road, maintained the appearance of a pond across the roadside landscape on Wednesday.

Storm kills 5 in state

The deaths of five people — most of them in eastern Pennsylvania — were blamed on the storm that left more than 1 million utility customers in the state without power, Corbett said.

The only local fatality was in Somerset County, where a woman died when the vehicle in which she was riding slid on a slush-covered road in Upper Turkeyfoot and plunged into a pond Monday night.

The driver, Abigail O'Connor, 51, of Confluence, was able to free herself but unable to save her passenger, Alice Hynes, 81, of Williamstown, Mass.

“We are breathing more of a sigh of relief,” he said. “We'll be breathing more of a sigh of relief when power is restored.”

Hills and mountains spared Western Pennsylvania from strong gusts, and the storm weakened as it churned inland, said National Weather Service meteorologist Rihaan Gangat.

Wind gusts reached 46 mph at Pittsburgh International Airport, officials said.

The weather service reported 2.67 inches of rain fell between 12:01 a.m. Monday and 8 p.m. Tuesday at the National Weather Service station in Moon. Greensburg had 3.9 inches; 3.26 inches fell in Bridgeville and 3.25 inches near Punxsutawney. There was snow in the Laurel Highlands with 6 inches in Stahlstown, 8.8 inches in Farmington and at least two inches in Uniontown.

Rain turns to snow

Rain continued into Wednesday, along with snow flurries and showers Wednesday throughout much of the Laurel Highlands.

But local ski slopes, including those at Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Hidden Valley Resort, remain closed this week.

“It's heavy, wet and sloppy, what we refer to as good ‘snowman' snow. It's not good for skiing,” Seven Springs spokeswoman Anna Weltz said.

Exhausted firefighters responded to call after call in the Ligonier area.

“We did 18 physical rescues,” Ligonier Volunteer Hose Company No. 1 Chief Paul Church said. “We didn't do much water pumping (Monday) night because water was still coming up.”

Five Ligonier residents were rescued by boat, and the others were able to walk out of their homes with firefighters' assistance. They were taken to the Ligonier Valley YMCA or stayed with family and friends.

Others had to be rescued from homes in Ligonier Township and Latrobe.

“I think this (flooding) is excessive compared to what we're used to in an average storm, but it could be worse,” said Ligonier Township Supervisor Tim Komar.

Throughout the region, people were ready for the worst.

In the mountainous areas, they filled bathtubs and buckets with well water.

“All we did was prepare for the forecast — get the flashlights, drew water,” said Lanny Ulery, 70, of Donegal.

With much of the state spared, Corbett said Pennsylvania is sending 35 ambulances and an oversized “mass casualty” bus to help in New Jersey. The bus can be used for large numbers of evacuees, Corbett said. The state is designating West Chester and East Stroudsburg universities as shelters for storm victims from New Jersey and New York.

Pennsylvania's 78-member search and rescue team is going to New Jersey, said PEMA Director Glenn Cannon.

On the other hand, about 2,500 power company workers from other states are helping local crews, especially those in eastern Pennsylvania where most of the loss of service occurred.

“We're not looking at 24-hour (restoration),” Public Utility Commission Chairman Rob Paulson said.

It may be early next week before a preliminary assessment of the storm damage can be completed, Corbett said.

President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration on Monday for the commonwealth that would make some residents eligible for disaster aid.

Westmoreland County officials said it could be a while before all of the 27 roads that were closed by flooding reopen.

“We haven't seen the water recede; in fact, we've seen it rise some more,” said Dan Stevens, spokesman for the county Department of Emergency Management.

Trib Total Media staff writers Brad Bumsted, Amanda Dolasinski, Stacey Federoff, Tom Fontaine, Margaret Harding, Bobby Kerlik, Michael Hasch, Jewels Phraner and Mary Pickels, Jennifer Reeger, Rossilynne Skena and Kelly Vernon contributed to this story.

A.J. Panian is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or

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