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MONDAY, AUGUST 27, 2012

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Hurricane Irene among worst Pa. storms Though Irene followed by Lee had devastating “one-two punch” in 2011. By PETER JACKSON Associated Press

HARRISBURG — An April flood, an August hurricane, a tropical storm in September. Could Nature throw anything else at Rob and Karyn Brenkacs and their eastern Pennsylvania neighbors? The couple and their three children were forced from their home on Yellow Breeches Creek when it flooded in the spring. Three months later, they moved back after repairs were made to their home in Camp Hill. But the homecoming celebration didn’t last long. Hurricane Irene blew into the state on Aug. 27, 2011, followed within weeks by Tropical Storm Lee. Though the fall storms were not the most damaging to hit the state, their “one-two punch” had devastating effects, said Ruth Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. A year after Irene, PEMA is still working with local officials to process applications for a hazard-mitigation program that allows homeowners to sell flood-prone properties to the government, Miller said. Also still pending are thousands of requests from state and local agencies and certain nonprofits for funds to pay for debris removal, road repairs and other disaster-recovery work. At least six deaths were blamed on the hurricane. Its

AP FILE PHOTO

Debris on the flooded Schuylkill River collect in front of the historic Fairmount Water Works located on the river below the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Aug. 28, 2011, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in Philadelphia. The rains were hard but not devastating, but Irene left an impact on the state, serving as a precursor to the deadlier and more dangerous Lee less than a month later.

lashing winds and rain wreaked havoc on eastern Pennsylvania, flooded creeks and rivers, uprooted trees and knocked out electrical power to hundreds of thousands of residents. Less than two weeks later, on Sept. 6, Tropical Storm Lee arrived, bringing historic floods and killing at least 12 people. Jennifer Kocher, a spokeswoman for the Public Utility Commission, said 1.3 million Pennsylvania electricity customers were affected by Hurricane Irene during the 12 days it took to restore service. At the peak of the power outages, more than 750,000 customers had no electricity.

The commission asked power companies in a follow-up survey to rank the severity of the hurricane. “All of the affected utilities had it within their top five” worst storms on record, Kocher said. Overall, the hurricane and its remnants that blasted the Caribbean, the eastern U.S. and Canada rank among the costliest in history. The storm system killed more than 50 people and affected more than 110 million people living in the 15 U.S. states where deaths or damage occurred. Of the Pennsylvania deaths blamed on Irene, three were caused by falling trees, PEMA says. Among the others, one

person drowned when she was swept away by raging waters; another fell off a deck and fractured his neck, a third person’s death was described as related to the power outage. Damage from the hurricane and tropical storm together accounted for about $425 million in losses covered by government relief agencies and private insurers in Pennsylvania. Still, “as tremendous as those dollar amounts are, damages from Hurricane Agnes in 1972 would translate to over $11 billion in today’s dollars,” Miller said. Irene was one of the worst storms Allentown-based PPL Electric Utilities has encoun-

Forecast filled with mystery

KING’S COMMUNITY SERVICE

Farmers’ Almanac predicts cold, snow for Great Lakes to northern New England. By DAVID SHARP Associated Press

FRED ADAMS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

ing’s College students shovel dirt at a Habitat for Humanity house site on Madison K Street, Wilkes-Barre, as part of a CitySERVE Day. About 500 students worked along with team leaders from the faculty, administration and staff at various sites. King’s president, the Rev. Jack Ryan, was among those at the Habitat site.

MISERICORDIA STUDENTS TRAIL BLAZERS

NIKO J. KALLIANIOTIS/FOR THE TIMES LEADER

M

tered, affecting 428,000 of the company’s 1.4 million customers and bearing a price tag of $32 million to cover overtime for employees working double shifts, equipment replacement and other expenses. The experience underscored the need to improve communications with customers and resulted in changes that included expanding the capacity of the company’s call center and hiring a vendor to help manage calls during peak periods, said spokesman Joe Nixon. “We did have people having trouble getting through to us,” he said. When Tropical Storm Lee was closing in in September, neighbors helped the Brenkacs move their possessions to higher ground — taking smaller items to the second floor of the home and elevating furniture and appliances on cinder blocks and makeshift scaffolding on the first floor. For two tense days, the family waited and watched floodwaters creep toward the house. Then the storm veered in another direction and the waters receded. “We were really lucky,” Karyn Brenkacs said. The Brenkacs now are finishing some landscaping at their home. They enjoy the pastoral beauty of their backyard and their proximity to the creek where they can swim, fish and kayak, she said. Despite last year’s mayhem, Karyn Brenkacs has a matterof-fact approach to any future storm possibilities. “I’m guessing the next time it happens, we might be ready to retire and downsize anyway,” she said.

isericordia University students sign up to work on sections of the Back Mountain Trail on Saturday morning in Dallas. More than 600 students, including 522 members of the freshman class, faculty and staff helped with the project as part of Orientation Day for Service 2012.

LEWISTON, Maine — The weather world is full of highprofile meteorologists like NBC’s Al Roker and the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore. But the guy making the forecasts for the Farmers’ Almanac is more like the man behind the curtain. He’s cloaked in mystery. The publisher of the 196-yearold almanac, which goes on sale this week, takes great pains to protect the identity of its reclusive weather soothsayer, who operates under the pseudonym Caleb Weatherbee. Caleb’s real name and hometown are a secret. And so is his age-old formula used for making longterm weather forecasts. The mystery man’s forecast for the coming winter suggests that people from the Great Lakes to northern New England should get out their long johns and dust off their snow shovels because it’s going to be cold and snowy. It’s also supposed to be wet and chilly in the Southeast, and milder for much of the rest of the nation. Even just to speak to the forecaster, the almanac would agree only to an unrecorded phone call with the man from an undisclosed location. “It’s part of the mystique, the almanac, the history,” said Editor Peter Geiger of the current prognosticator, the almanac’s seventh, who has been underground since starting the job in the 1980s. The weather formula created by almanac founder David

Young in 1818 was based on planetary positions, sunspots and lunar cycles. Since then, historical patterns, data and a computer have been added. In an election season, the almanac dubbed its forecast “a nation divided” because there’s a dividing line where winter returns for much of the east, with milder weather west of the Great Lakes. Scientists generally don’t think too much of almanac’s formula. Ed O’Lenic, operations chief for NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, declined to knock the almanac’s methodology but said sun spots and moon phases aren’t used anymore. “I’m sure these people have good intentions but I would say that the current state of the science is light years beyond what it was 200 years ago,” O’Lenic said from Maryland. In this year’s edition, the almanac’s editors are contrite about failing to forecast record warmth last winter but they suggested readers should go easy on the publication — and on Caleb — because nobody forecast 80-degree weather in March that brought the ski season a rapid end in northern New England. “Let’s face it — the weather was so wacky last year. It was so bizarre,” said Sandi Duncan, managing editor, pointing out that NOAA and Accuweather also missed the mark. Indeed, NOAA and Accuweather didn’t project the extent of the warm winter. The Maine-based Farmers’ Almanac is not to be confused with the New Hampshire-based Old Farmer’s Almanac. Both issue annual forecasts, with the Old Farmer’s Almanac scheduled for next month.

DETAILS LOTTERY MIDDAY DRAWING DAILY NUMBER – 3-5-2 BIG 4 – 6-9-3-1 QUINTO – 0-9-3-3-6 TREASURE HUNT 02-16-25-26-28 NIGHTLY DRAWING DAILY NUMBER – 7-5-1 BIG 4 – 8-5-7-8 QUINTO – 0-9-3-3-6 CASH 5 23-24-25-39-41 HARRISBURG – No player matched all five winning numbers drawn in Sunday’s “Pennsylvania Cash 5” game, so the jackpot will be worth $750,000. Lottery officials said 76 players matched four numbers and won $373 each; 3,493 players matched three numbers and won 13.50 each; and 45,135 players matched two numbers and won $1 each. • Wednesday’s Powerball jackpot will be worth at least $70 million because no player holds a ticket with one row that matches all five winning numbers drawn in Saturday’s game. The winning numbers were: 01-06-07-20-49 Powerball: 23

OBITUARIES Adelson, Elaine Appel, Helen Copeland, Jennie Cumbo, Theresa Krawetz, Joseph Miles, Angeline Regan, Jane Smith, Susan Stankus, Betty Yachim, Carl Page 6A

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