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October 31, 2012

Sandy’s aftermath: Locally, one death is linked to storm

SOMERSET — An 81-year-old Massachusetts woman who died following a Somerset County crash was the only Superstorm Sandy-related death in the region and one of at least nine in the state.

Alice Hynes of Williams­town, Mass., died after the car she was riding in crashed into a pond, Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said.

Hynes’ daughter, Abigail O’Connor, 51, of Confluence, was driving south on Kingwood Road in Upper Turkeyfoot Township when she “lost control of the vehicle on snow- and slush-covered roads, due to the ongoing storm,” state police at  Somerset reported.

The 2011 Honda CRV crossed the double yellow line, traveled across the northbound lane and then rolled over into a farm pond on the east side of Route 281.

Both women were trapped inside the vehicle.

O’Connor was unhurt and was able to free herself.

She attempted to free Hynes, who was trapped under the water, but was unable to do so. O’Connor went to a nearby home to call emergency responders.

New Centerville Volunteer Fire Department removed Hynes from the vehicle.

She was transported to Somerset Hospital, where she was declared dead.

Both women were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident, which was reported at 9:36 p.m.

An autopsy showed Hynes was killed instantly in the crash from a broken neck, Miller said.

Other storm-related deaths in the state included:

• A 48-year-old Luzerne County who died woman from carbon monoxide fumes from a generator.

• An 86-year-old Luzerne County woman who died from hypothermia after being found unresponsive in her yard.

• An elderly Lancaster County man who fell from a tree he was trimming in advance of the approaching storm.

• A Northampton County  teen who struck a fallen tree while riding an ATV.

• A 66-year-old man who died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator running in a garage.

• A 90-year-old suburban Philadelphia woman who was found dead of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator.

• An 8-year-old boy in Susquehanna County who died when a tree limb fell on him.

n A 62-year-old man in Berks County who died after a tree fell on top of a house.

Although Somerset County continues to dig out from more than a foot of snow in many areas while assessing wind and flood damage, the region escaped the worst of Sandy.

“The main thing, there was a lot of power outages,” said Richard B. Lohr, Somerset County emergency management coordinator.

At the storm’s peak, more than 3,300 Somerset County customers were without power and another 2,600 Bedford County homes were left in the dark.

“Countywide, most of the problem was trees down due to the wind and heavy snow,” Lohr said, adding that minimal flooding problems were reported and only a few flooded basements.

All but four of the county’s 28 volunteer fire companies were pressed into service.

Early Wednesday evening, Penelec reported power had been restored to all but about 100 Somerset County customers. Somerset Rural Electric Cooperative had about 200 without power, and both companies expected service to be restored to all customers by midday today, Somerset County 911 director David Fox said.

In Somerset County, parts of Glencoe Road in Northampton Township and Friendsville Road in Addison Township remained closed Wednesday evening.

In Bedford County, parts of Crissman Road in West St. Clair Township and Lutzville Road in Snake Spring Township and Everett were closed, PennDOT reported.

Additional borough or township roads could remain closed in storm-damaged areas, Lohr said, noting that municipal crews are dealing with snow removal and downed trees.

Cambria County had only a handful of power outages and no extended road closings, Emergency Management Director Ron Springer said.

“We really escaped the brunt,” Springer said. “Cambria County is one of the most fortunate around.”

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is asking the county to fill out a report of damages to apply for aid, but Springer said there won’t be enough to bring any disaster relief money here.

Springer and Lohr said the counties and emergency service providers were well-prepared with a strong response to the storm. But some residents’ apathetic response to storm warnings concerned both emergency services experts.

“This had the potential of being a catastrophic, life-threatening event,” Springer said. “All you have to do is look at what is going on in New York and New Jersey.

“Could that have been us? Yes.”

Every home should be equipped with enough food and supplies for residents to shelter in place for three to four days, Springer and Lohr said.

“People have to understand, this may happen again,” Lohr said. “People have to learn to be self-sufficient for 72 hours.”

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