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Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Outages tick down in southeast as PA sends help to NJ & others

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 30, 2012 12:44 PM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

Gov. Corbett was late to his noontime press briefing, finishing up a 30-minute conference call with President Obama and the governors of most storm-affected states in the mid-Atlantic.

He announced that the commonwealth is making its emergency resources available to neighboring states reeling from Superstorm Sandy, including New York, New Jersey, and West Virginia.

PEMA director Glenn Cannon said a state urban rescue task force is now going under federal authority for deployment. A single team has about 78 people.

“They do mainly search and rescue, and particularly around building collapse,” said Cannon.

Pennsylvania is also sending medical resources to New Jersey, upon Gov. Chris Christie’s request, including 35 ambulances and what’s called a “mass casualty bus,” though Cannon urged people to think of it rather as a mass injury bus – a large vehicle that can transport more people than an ambulance could.

“So it’s not that there are large numbers of dead folks that they’re trying to deal with, that’s not the case,” said Cannon, “but because we have this very sophisticated piece of equipment in Pennsylvania, they know it. It’s been asked for.”

Public Utility Chairman Robert Powelson said that by midday Tuesday, PECO outages had been reduced by 23,000 since 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. PPL had restored power to 10,000 households and businesses between 9 a.m. and noontime.

A few clarifications are in order regarding the number of shelters.  There are 57 shelters statewide; 48 of them are operated by the American Red Cross. 923 people had checked into those shelters as of noon Tuesday. The largest shelter population is at a Red Cross facility in West Philadelphia, at the West Philadelphia High School, where there are 244 people, Corbett said.

Two so-called “megashelters” are slated to open, at the governor’s request, by mid-afternoon Tuesday. The shelters are intended to house out-of-state evacuees from New York and New Jersey, but Corbett said Pennsylvanians would be able to check in, as well. One megashelter will be at West Chester University in Chester County and can hold up to 1,300 people. Another at East Stroudsburg University in Monroe County can hold up to 500 people.

Gov. Corbett says there is still no plan to extend the Friday deadline for turning in absentee ballots to county election boards, in spite of postal office and courthouse closings.

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