Thousands of Bucks residents still without power

Posted: November 03, 2012

Ruth Kilmer, living without electricity in her cold, dark house in Solebury Township, Bucks County, since Sandy hit Monday, has resorted to melting ice on her outdoor gas grill for drinking water.

She uses bottles of well water filled before the storm to flush her toilet.

And she fires up the grill to heat milk, boil water for coffee, and warm up a bagel for breakfast.

"Thank God I can shower and clean up" at work, Kilmer, a nurse at St. Mary Medical Center and Abington Memorial Hospital, said outside her home Thursday.

Sandy hit Bucks the hardest of any county in Pennsylvania, knocking out electricity to 213,000 customers. Power was restored to about half by Thursday, but Solebury customers weren't among the lucky ones.

About 90 percent of the nearly 9,000 Peco customers in Solebury were still without power Thursday, Township Manager Dennis Carney said.

"Hopefully, by Monday or Tuesday of next week, only a few will be out," Carney said. "They're making headway. They brought in a large number of crews from Louisiana, Florida, and Kentucky, but it's slow going."

Downed trees have wiped out utility lines and blocked streets, making it difficult to get around the township's winding network of two-lane roads and one-lane bridges.

A toppled oak knocked out electricity and cable service to Kilmer's house and is still blocking Greenhill Road. It also blocks her neighbor's driveway, forcing him to drive across their lawns to reach the road.

Kilmer and many other Solebury residents have chosen to stay in their powerless, darkened homes. A "good number" of residents have generators, Carney said, and some are "bunking with relatives. I don't know of any who are using shelters."

A family of four was hospitalized Wednesday after being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes while using a generator to heat their Crestwood Circle home. All were treated and released by Thursday.

In historic Carversville, the general store is closed for business, but U.S. Postmaster Bob Grady is doubling up as the bearer of village news.

"The word is that the power will be back at 11 p.m., and I'm optimistic," Grady told everyone who stopped in the combination general store and post office.

Sandy hasn't stopped Grady. He has delivered mail to the 50 homes on his motor route each day and stuffed the 232 post office boxes. For a few of the elderly box-holders, including a 100-year-old man, he's hand-delivered their mail.

"I've also been checking on people's houses," Grady said. "I've gotten a lot of calls from people in Philadelphia and New York about their weekend homes and whether the power is on."

Across the street at the Carversville Inn, a gas generator powered the refrigeration system, so there was no loss of food, owner Will Mathias said.

"We're so lucky that it's only the power that's out," he said, referring to the village's history of flooding in major storms. "We dodged a major bullet."

As the power outage continues, residents are running short of gasoline to power generators and possibly water, Carney said. The water company might provide a tanker for residents to fill bottles of water, he said, and the National Guard might provide some fuel.

Carversville resident Jake Cowen planned to buy a generator after a snowstorm last year knocked out power to his apartment, "but I never did," he said.

A year later, he and his wife, Rebecca, were packing to move to nearby Frenchtown, across the Delaware River in New Jersey.

"We moved in without power," Cowen said, "and we're moving out without power."


Bob Grady, the postmaster in Carversville, Bucks County, talks about the power outage in Solebury Township at www.philly.com/bucksoutage


Contact Bill Reed at 215-801-2964, wreed@philly.com, or follow @breedbucks on Twitter. Read his blog, "BucksInq," at www.philly.com/bucksinq.

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