Heavily anticipated since late last week, Superstorm Sandy came as advertised on Monday, battering Bethlehem with heavy rain and wind gusts of 60 mph, knocking down tree limbs and power lines and leaving some 30,000 city homes without electricity by midnight.
Still, the 1,000-mile wide monster cyclone dubbed “Frankenstorm” may not be through with the Lehigh Valley. More rain and wind gusts as high as 50 mph remained in the National Weather Service forecast for today.
“Its nuts all around,” commented one Bethlehem Patch Facebook follower. “Transformer fires. Trees down etc. Roofs flying all around.”
Other Facebook followers reported power outages in Rosemont, Woodmont Mews and Miller Heights in Bethlehem Township where another 10,000 homes were without electricity.
Yet another Facebook follower, reported a downed tree blocking traffic on the 700 block of Fourth Avenue on the city’s West Side.
City officials urged residents to stay home if at all possible. “Too many limbs wires, etc down to report. Don't leave your home or other place of safety unless it's an emergency,” Bethlehem Police tweeted before 11 p.m.
Classes are cancelled today at Bethlehem Area Schools, Lehigh University and Moravian College. The city’s recycling centers and curbside recycling pickup have been suspended for the day. LANTA bus service throughout the Lehigh Valley has also been suspended for the second consecutive day.
Last night, the city announced that Bethlehem City Hall would also close today.
The city declared a state of emergency at 10:30 a.m. Monday and ordered the voluntary evacuation of 168 homes – most of them along the Saucon Creek in the SouthSide and a few along the Monocacy Creek on the North Side.
The emergency declaration also meant that emergency officials would close historically flood-prone roads to traffic at 4 p.m. Those roads – Conestoga Street, Mauch Chunk Road between Elizabeth Avenue and Laurel Street, and all the streets in Saucon Park.
Shortly after the announcement, city fire officials knocked on doors in the four-square block Saucon Park neighborhood to tell residents that it would be best if they left by 3:30 p.m.
Jordanna Jordan of Norwood Street said a normal rainstorm can leave her basement under five feet of water.
“If this is as bad as they are saying, we could have water up to the second floor,” she said.
She said her father had spent the morning moving the family’s washer and drier up to the second floor. Now, she was planning to spend the night in a hotel while her father, Alex, was going to stay with her brother.
The bigger challenge, Alex Jordan said, was finding a place to keep their four dogs. “I won’t leave them behind,” he said.
Before leaving, he did his best to flood-proof his house, boarding up his garage door. “It might work better than the sandbags I used last time,” he said.
The American Red Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania opened a shelter at its headquarters at 2121 City Line Road which was only a little more than half-filled as of Monday evening. An emergency shelter for pets was also opened across the street at 2120 City Line Road.
In Allentown, Agricultural Hall in the Allentown Fairgrounds had also opened as an emergency shelter.