Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Pennsylvanians in the central and eastern part of the state are bracing for days-long power outages as they keep an eye on Hurricane Sandy.
Swiftwater rescue teams have been ordered in from southwestern PA to bide their time in Harrisburg in case they’re needed. 1,600 National Guardsmen are on active duty and awaiting orders, and Gov. Corbett said Monday afternoon that the State Police are working 12-hour shifts. The state has opened 58 evacuation centers, which have a total capacity of 31,000 thousand people.
If there is a bright spot in this storm, said Corbett, it’s that snowfall is expected to be insignificant expect in most of the state, while heavy rains and high winds could last into Tuesday.
“This is going to be an event that for a period of time, is going to alter the way we do things,” Corbett said.
The director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said residents of central and southeastern Pennsylvania should anticipate power outages that last days, not hours, due to Hurricane Sandy.
“High impact winds, probably 40 to 60 mile-an-hour, and then occasional hurricane-force winds on top of that,” said director Glenn Cannon. “Once the ground is saturated, 40 mile-an-hour winds will bring the trees down.”
The major utilities have called in out-of-state workers to assist with restoring power. According to the governor’s office, PECO has brought in 11-hundred workers from Chicago, PPL has called in 15-hundred workers from Kentucky, and First Energy has more than 150 workers coming from Ohio.
“Are we overhyping this? Absolutely not,” said Pennsylvania Utility Commission chairman Robert Powelson. “This event is going to have a profound impact on our utility footprints.”
Gov. Corbett said even Election Day is a concern right now, as officials ponder the possibility the power grid might not be fully restored by next Tuesday.
“I am told that the [voting] machines have battery pack back-ups at this point in time,” said the governor. “The one issue that we will be discussing today is the issue of absentee ballots for the courts that are closed today.” Corbett advised people voting absentee to mail in their ballots, as state courts are closed, and the deadline to get the ballots in is this Friday.
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