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St. Thomas, Mercersburg areas hit hard by storm's intense fury

October 30, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • This huge tree was uprooted by Sandy and toppled onto power lines Monday night in front of the James Buchanan Middle School near Mercersburg, Pa.
Photo by Roxann Miller

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Most of Franklin County managed to escape the horrible wrath of Superstorm Sandy, but St. Thomas and parts of Mercersburg (Pa.) felt her destructive force and spent Tuesday cleaning up.

The eye went over north of Chambersburg and concentrated in St. Thomas, according to Franklin County Department of Emergency Services.

St. Thomas Fire Chief Tom Bigler was still running calls at noon on Tuesday after starting at 3 p.m. on Monday.

“We’ve been out all morning cutting trees and trying to clear roads because our main objective is to have at least one lane of traffic open,” Bigler said. “We probably had 70 mile per hour winds here in the township (St. Thomas). It seems like no one else had the wind speeds like we had in the area that I know of.”

All over St. Thomas, telephone poles were sheared off, trees were uprooted, parts of roofs were missing and utility crews were working feverishly trying to restore service to customers.

Right now, everyone is battling this wind, Bigler said.

He said trees fell into about seven homes in St. Thomas.

“There are probably basements that are flooded with the electricity out and the sump pumps not working,” Bigler said.

But, on Tuesday, the fire company still did not have phone service at the fire company.

So, residents could not call the fire company to ask for flood assistance.

The wind uprooted two trees at a home on Lincoln Way West in St. Thomas.

“They’re not home,” neighbor Lori Hartman yelled from across U.S. 30.

Hartman said the family is in Florida, but she told them about the uprooted trees.

“We were prepared for it but still it was the magnitude of the wind and everything — I wasn’t expecting to actually come out and see the trees down this morning,” she said.

When the wind and rain knocked out the power, Hartman and her children Timothy McGowan, 13, and Maranda McGowan, 16, huddled in one bedroom and put on extra clothes.

They were without light or heat from 5 p.m. Monday to about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

It wasn’t the cold that bothered Timothy when the power went off.

“I was annoyed that the power went off, because I was in the middle of a (XBox) game,” he said.

Mike Ryder of Ryder Construction couldn’t believe the punch that Sandy packed.

Ryder was helping his friend, Dave Brindle, clean up after the storm ripped the roof off his auto body business.

“I’ve lived back here for over 25 years. We’ve had big storms come through — Nor’easters come through — and my house has jarred a little wee bit, but it trembled,” he said with emphasis in his voice.

He was shocked by the force of Monday’s storm.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this bad. I knew it was going to be bad. But then when they showed five states (affected). I said, ‘Whoa, it’s that big?’”

Brindle, owner of Brindle’s Auto Body in St. Thomas, said the business has been a mainstay in St. Thomas for more than 40 years.

“We got the vehicles out. Part of the roof came off last night (Monday), and we got the vehicles out and when we were done the rest of the roof came in,” Brindle said.

As he stood and looked at the extensive damage, he said he felt fortunate and devastated at the same time.

“I’m very blessed. No one got hurt. Half of my house roof was ripped off, and no one was hurt. This stuff can be replaced. These are things,” he said.

He said the business will only be closed for a few days.

“I have the other half of the garage (to work on vehicles) and there is another garage down the road I can use,” he said.

A little farther down the road, the wind from the storm ripped an iron canopy apart and tossed two diesel pumps around like rag dolls.

St. Thomas Gas and Diesel Manager Brenda Strait couldn’t believe the destruction.

“The two diesel pumps are gone, the sign is gone, my office is flooded, part of the roof is gone, the siding is ripped off and some windows are blown out,” Strait said.

Right now the business is closed.

But Strait said they will reopen the business as soon as they can.

“I live in Shippensburg, and I didn’t have any of this. This is the second thing I’ve been through this year. I had a fire (at my home) earlier this year so it’s been a heck of a year!” Strait said.

Detrich-Brechbill American Legion Post 612 in St. Thomas also was not immune to Sandy’s wrath.

“We have a pretty nice mess,” said Bob Zullinger, post commander.

Trees smashed the awning on the stone building and knocked the chimney over and into the roof of the kitchen.

The chimney is the legion’s method of heating the building, Zullinger said.

“Our biggest worry is getting the chimney back up so we can get some heat. That will be the first thing on our agenda,” Zullinger said.

Mercersburg was also affected by the storm.

Downed trees and sheared off telephone poles were strewn along Pa. 416 traveling into Mercersburg, Pa.

An uprooted tree pulled down power lines in front of the James Buchanan Middle School on Tuesday. Tuscarora School District board members and administrators assessed damage to district buildings on Tuesday.

No significant damage was reported in the Tuscarora School District, according to school officials. School are closed Wednesday, according to the district’s website.

At the Mercersburg Academy, students were evacuated from South Cottage, a girls’ dormitory, when the wind and rain seriously damaged the roof of South Cottage.

Wallace Whitworth, a Mercersburg Academy spokesman, said no one was hurt, but the school decided to evacuate the building as a precaution.

Students were moved to other dorms and to the health center on Tuesday morning.

Whitworth said the campus is putting a new roof on the building.

Also, Whitworth said about 40 trees were knocked down due to Monday’s storm.

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