Hurricane Sandy’s path to, and through, Northwest Philadelphia

Residents in pockets of Northwest Philadelphia are dealing with power outages, downed wires and fallen trees this morning. NewsWorks will keep you continually apprised of storm-related issues in Northwest Philadelphia and beyond.

We have reporters stationed throughout the neighborhoods and will keep a close eye on storm ramifications in historically flood prone areas like Belfield Avenue and East Haines and Musgrave streets in East Germantown. By all means, send photographs or tips in to us as well.

Complete Sandy Coverage

Check back throughout Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for the latest from Northwest Philadelphia. 

10:30 p.m. Monday update: 

At a press conference outside City Hall, Mayor Michael Nutter said there are an estimated 90 to 100 trees down in the city as well as at least 25 live PECO lines knocked down. He urged citizens to not go near any of those lines as they’d run the risk of electrocution.

The Department of Licenses and Inspection have responded to 15 reports of structural issues, he said.

More rain and “deteriorating conditions” of heavy winds are coming overnight.

He reiterated that public and parochial schools will be closed Tuesday in the city, and that he expects charter schools will be as well.

When SEPTA gets back up and running, Nutter expects that the Broad Street and Market Frankford lines will be the first services restored.

The city’s 311 call center has received an estimated 15,000 calls on a variety of issues including downed trees and wires, flooding and traffic conditions. “The system is working,” Nutter said.

Cleanup will “more than likely take a couple days in and of itself,” he said.

An estimated 41,000 PECO customers are without power within the city limits.

10 p.m. Monday update:

Philadelphia Police are indicating downed power lines in the vicinity of 3200 School House Lane in East Falls.

Fire Department has been notified, but there are numerous reports of downed power lines across the city, taxing available resources.

Also, here is video of Sandy’s outer bands reaching Germantown and Mt. Airy on Monday afternoon.

9 p.m. Monday update:

East Falls resident David Senoff reported that there is a large tree down in the 3400 block of Midvale Ave., and it’s blocking street with Fire Department personnel, the commanding officer of the 39th Police District and a gaggle of onlookers are on the scene, according to Senoff.

I am unable to walk over to check it out, but I’ve heard the sirens from a block away.

7 p.m. Monday update:

Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop for detours.

At approximately 6:40 p.m., Philadelphia Police responded to Lincoln and Kelly drives, where barricades meant to prevent entry to Lincoln, apparently erected in haste, are blowing in the wind.

As observed by an unidentified officer over police radio, someone evidently neglected to ensure that water was placed in the barriers, which adds critical ballast to the hollow barricades.

Fire Department personnel were subsequently dispatched to remedy the displaced traffic control devices.

In other traffic-related news, “With tropical-force winds creating dangerous traveling conditions in the Philadelphia area, Gov. Tom Corbett is closing the full length of Interstates 95 and 676; I-476 (non-toll portion); I-76 from the Pa. Turnpike to Passyunk Avenue and the U.S. Route 1 Extension in Philadelphia to all traffic except emergency vehicles from 7 p.m. through 2 a.m.

“The governor reiterated that motorists should not travel during the storm to ensure their safety and the safety of emergency responders who may be assisting in storm operations.”

6:30 p.m. Monday update:

We’re not in the business of endorsing specific pizzerias here at NewsWorks, but when you hear of one that’s delivering as the outer bands of a hurricane hover overhead, it bears mention.

“We’re going to try and deliver until 11 p.m.,” said Jimmy Joyce, owner of Slices Pizza in East Falls, “or until we lose electric.”

Know of other restaurants still delivering food? Let us know.

6:15 p.m. Monday update:

NewsWorks contribtor Janis Chakars checks in with this report from the Manayunk Hurricane Happy Hour scene:

The normally busy bars and restaurants on Main Street were mostly closed, but a few places stayed open for a hurricane happy hour.

“Snowstorms are our forte,” said Joe Keough, owner of the Manayunk Tavern, but any weather event that keeps people from work will do. 

When he opened at 4 p.m. his bar was filled with about 40 people. At 5 p.m. he still had a healthy 26 customers, but he feared the crowds might leave early.  “This one is scaring people,” he said.

Still they will keep serving tonight. “We don’t close for Christmas, so we are not closing for a hurricane,” said Keough.

Joining the Manayunk Tavern, the Cactus and The Bayou next door were also hosting hurricane revelers. Ronnie Gavor, showed up dressed as Spiderman.

“I got the day off,” he explained.

On the other end of Main, Lucky’s Last Chance opened because people were calling and asked them to turn on the taps.

“We have to do what the public asks,” said bartender Chris Pelusi.

However, the streets were mostly empty and there were signs the party was moving uphill.

“People are moving to high ground,” said Corinne Kern, who met friends at The Old Eagle on Terrace Street and planned to “stay until the power goes out.”

Brendan Murphy, the bartender, added that they planned stay open even after, but “no credit cards after the power goes.”

By 5:30 p.m., the bar was full and wait for beer were long. Joe Stephenson came up from East Falls.

“There are only two bars in East Falls,” he said, so he had to evacuate to the Yunk.

John, who gave his last name as “Smith” for fear his boss reads NewsWorks, similarly took refuge at the Old Eagle after fleeing Sea Bright, N.J.

Hurricane happy hour is a draw because “nobody has work,” said Murphy. “They have no place to go tomorrow.”

“Every time a storm hits Manayunk, there are always people out. It’s a social event,” said Tim Drucker, who works in boat insurance and was enjoying the night before he expects gets busy with claims. “The rest of the week is going to be bad.”

6:05 p.m. Monday update: 

According to the Red Cross, 35 people are seeking shelter at Roxborough High, along with four pets. 

6 p.m. Monday update:

Philadelphia Police were called to Kelly Drive in East Falls at approximately 4:30 p.m. to investigate reports of drifting boat near the Falls Bridge.

According to police dispatchers, the boat was apparently unoccupied and possibly abandoned, and was seen by NewsWorks beached on the banks of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive shortly thereafter.

Kris Alutius, caretaker of the Philadelphia Canoe Club, wasn’t surprised by the sighting of a loose boat, as it’s not an uncommon phenomenon on the Schuylkill River.

“It happens all the time,” he said.

5:10 p.m. Monday update:

Mayor Michael Nutter just tweeted that he is en route to a flood-prone area of Northwest Philadelphia. Specifically, “The storm is incredibly bad and dangerous. Please stay in and be safe. Just left Eastwick and now going to Manayunk, flood prone areas.”

Among those who responded to his Tweet? Former Philadelphia Phillie Shane Victorino. Mahalo, Shane.

4:15 p.m. Monday update:

As Hurricane Sandy picks up strength, Michael Marino, who owns a property at the corner of Belfield Avenue and Haines Street in East Germantown, told NewsWorks that the flood-prone intersection “looks fine” for the time being.

He’s still glad, though, that he hasn’t plunged any money — about $15,000 by his estimate — into restoring a building that was ravaged during Tropical Storm Lee last summer.

Sandy may not flood the intersection like Lee did, but there’s still potential for damage. The disassembled police barricades around the corner on Belfield didn’t help put Marino’s mind at ease.

“I was thinking about this last night,” said Marino. “This is the perfect example of why I said I wouldn’t repair the house.”

Marino, who runs Marino Building Contractors Inc., said his crews will check on the intersection later tonight, when wind and rainfall are expected to be the most severe.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

3:45 p.m. Monday update:

Philadelphia Police report that Lincoln Drive is closed in both directions due to flooding. 

3:30 p.m. Monday update:

Save for a few cars, Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill was largely desolate as the brunt of Hurricane Sandy headed for Philadelphia.

A few businesses near the top of the neighborhood’s commercial corridor were open, including Cosimo’s Pizza Café. Enzo Mandarano, who owns the restaurant, said he went to work this morning in case employees at Chestnut Hill Hospital or residents at nearby nursing homes were looking for lunch.

No such luck, though.

“It looks like there is no lunch,” said Mandarano with a chuckle as he surveyed his near-empty dining room. “Everybody stocked up on food and they’re home I guess.”

Mandarano said he plans on closing up shop around 3 p.m.

A couple doors down, McNally’s Tavern was a bit busier. Anne McNally, who owns the Avenue mainstay, said the restaurant was busier than usual for lunch on a Monday, mostly regular customers coming in for a bite.

“A lot of people said, ‘Oh thank you for being open,'” said McNally just after 2 p.m. She expects to close around 5 p.m.

3 p.m. Monday update:

This just in from the School District of Philadelphia:

“Due to the severe weather forecast, all School District of Philadelphia schools and administrative offices are closed for Tuesday, Oct. 30. Also closed are all early childhood and after school programs. The general public and media are urged to monitor the District Web site at www.philasd.org for any updates. Updated information will also be posted on the District’s Information Hotline at 215-400-INFO (4636).”

The city’s court system has followed suit, as well:

“As a result of the ongoing impact of Hurricane Sandy on our region, Philadelphia’s Courts will be closed again tomorrow, Tuesday, October 30, 2012.”

As has the Philadelphia Housing Authority:

“Philadelphia Housing Authority closed on Tuesday, October 30th, except for emergency and essential personnel. For additional Information, 215-684-0002.”

2 p.m. Monday update: 

NewsWorks’ Megan Pinto caught up with Wallace Littlewood as he was walking down Main Street to check on his friends at the Manayunk Brewery. He offered to head back to his G.J. Littlewood and Son fiber dyeing factory across the street to show us how they prepared for the storm.

Littlewood, the former president and chairman of the board for the company, is now retired after 60-plus years in the business. He said he’s seen his fair share of storms at the Manayunk shop.

“We’ve had quite a few storms here. The first one I remember was 1933 and that was pretty much statewide and then we had some ones between that,” he said. “In ’72 we got a big one; we had six feet of water in here and then in ’99 we had another big one.”

He said the business is more prepared now than it used to be. Most of the doors in the factory are plated up, all fiber has been moved to higher ground, sandbags are ready to be secured in front of the doors and six large water pumps are placed throughout the site ready to be put in action once the storm makes its way through Manayunk.

A few areas in the facility are already leaking but Littlewood isn’t too concerned. He hasn’t even been watching any of the storm news reports on TV or online.

“I let my son do that, and my nephew,” he joked.

But he’s not willing to take chances on his business. He knows how unpredictable and dangerous the flooding can get on Main Street and he’s glad he and his colleagues have had time to prepare.

“There was one storm, I forget which one it was, where the dam broke up the river and it came so fast we just couldn’t get prepared, it came up so fast there was no chance of preparing for it, no way,” he said. “This time, we’ve got a chance; we’ve got our head above water.”

1:30 p.m. Monday update:

Michael Kester, assistant manager of Cactus restaurant and bar at 4243 Main St. in Manayunk, told NewsWorks’ Megan Pinto about preparations there.

“We really don’t have to do too much. The only thing we ever have to worry about is the power going out but we’ve got candles so even if the power goes out we will still be open having a candelight dinner special I guess you could say,” he said.

“We have never flooded during any of the hurricanes going back probably 25 years since I’ve been around the area,” he continued. “I’ve never seen this part of the street flood. The flooding only happens on the edges of the street. Hopefully, people come down to see that flooding and then come down here to grab something to eat and something to drink.

“You can only spend two to three hours sitting in your house before you go a little stir crazy so everybody wants to come down here they can see the news crews showing everything so everyone wants to come down and see what all the excitement is all about and hopefully they come in here.”

1:15 p.m. Monday update:

NewsWorks contributor Janis Chakars offered a Wissahickon update:

As wind picked up under a steady rain, most of Wissahickon was quiet in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy.

No joggers huffed along the creek and nobody played in the park.

Many local businesses from bike shops to barbers were closed, but a few people were braving the weather at least for the time being.

Verizon workers calmly laid cable on Sumac Street.

“I don’t worry about anything until it happens,” said John Litton, who proudly claims FiOS can withstand any storm.

SEPTA workers huddled in their trucks at the Wissahickon station waiting for trees or wires to fall while others cleared the drains in the tunnel that runs underneath.

At one of the last places with flashlights in the neighborhood, Dina Batel, the owner of the Commissary Food Market on Ridge Ave. has seen a steady stream of customers.

“I’ll take two,” said Sarah Moweyer, who also picked up glow in the dark axes to occupy her kids home from school.

Another customer saw a bad sign when his tally came out to $6.66.

The Manayunk Diner at the bottom of Main Street was also open — “Koreans never close for anything,” said Lily Lee, the owner’s daughter — but business was slow. Benjamin Kall came in for what might be that last “nice, full breakfast” for a while. Lisa’s Kitchen on Ridge Ave. was busier getting a rush from customers who went to work and were turned back home.

Stanley’s hardware store was also bustling. Owner Joe Jaconski says he can’t remember ever closing in 30 years. They have what people need in these situations, he said, and while they ran out of flashlights yesterday, they are doing a brisk business in coolers, batteries, lamp oil, pumps, tarps, plywood and roofing supplies.

“Expect the worst and hope for the best,” said employee Mary Pat Harron as a customer handed her a photoshoped picture of Frankenstein emerging from the surf on the beach.

Speedy’s beer distributor had a line of cars filing through and a delivery truck unloading, but Vernon Cherry says most people stocked up for hurricane parties yesterday. Today, it has been mostly ice.

Northern Children’s Home is closed, but its more than 15 residents are supplied and unconcerned.

“They don’t worry, but we do,” said Jerome Cannon, who works security as branches from a ginko tree came crashing down.

Some businesses are closing early. The Commissary will call it a day at 2 p.m. Dunkin Donuts on Ridge closed at noon and the BP gas station was also planning to close by early afternoon.

Back at the Manayunk Diner, Lee is nervous. Her father is talking about closing tomorrow. They are right by the river after all, but he never shuts the doors.

12:30 p.m. Monday update:

Speaking at an emergency preparations press conference with the mayor, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah spoke about the science of hurricane tracking, and referenced something the acting director of the National Weather Service told him.

“Nobody has ever seen anything like this before,” Fattah recounted of Laura K. Furgione’s message. “I know we have all been through storms, and have seen what we think are significant events. But, the idea of this storm … hovering over for us for such a long period of time, with winds stretching out over 1,000 miles, this is significant event. The concern around public safety is legitimate.”

11:30 a.m. Monday update:

Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass went door-to-door in the flood-prone areas along Musgrave and Haines Street on Sunday, warning residents about what could potentially happen because of Hurricane Sandy, according to her spokesman Joe Corrigan.

“We’ll be out with city departments on Friday in the flood-prone areas,” Corrigan said. “We encourage people to report damage and flooding to 311, and to call 911 for real emergencies. We’ll be out surveying damage throughout the Eighth as soon as possible.”

10:30 a.m. Monday update:

While the streets of Germantown aren’t exactly desolate, traffic is scarce. The Walgreens Pharmacy at Germantown and Chelten avenues was open this morning, with several people on foot heading in and out.

Water looked to be accumulating at the notoriously flood-prone intersection of Haines St. and Belfield Ave. in East Germantown. On Sunday, City Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ spokesman Joe Corrigan told NewsWorks that there are particular worries about that section of the Eighth District, where a woman was killed during Hurricane Irene last year.

The 100 block of E. High St. (near Germantown High School) was blocked off as a pair of PECO workers checked out a street light. After confirming the outage, one utility worker sporting an orange rain suit, said to a NewsWorks reporter, “I’m trying to figure out what you’re doing out here in this (weather).”

9 a.m. Monday update:  

High Street in Germantown is closed off due to a power outage.  PECO crews are working on the issue. 

8:40 a.m. Monday update:

Members of the Philadelphia Canoe Club spent the weekend preparing their historic clubhouse for Hurricane Sandy. The site sits behind the SEPTA bus depot on Ridge Avenue in East Falls where the Wissahickon Creek meets the Schuylkill. Because of it’s proximity to the water, it’s usually one of the hardest hit areas in Northwest Philadelphia during a storm.

“The first thing we had to do was put all furniture on tables upstairs in the second floor,” said Rosemary Rau, commodore of the club. “Then we had to move all of our outdoor furniture and tie it to trees, take all boats out of the boat shed and tie them to the fence.

Rau said she had about 15 volunteers helping out on Saturday and 20 on Sunday. Unlike other storms that have impacted the clubhouse in the past, she said she feels well-prepared for Hurricane Sandy.

“We had a lot of warning with this one,” she said. “Sometimes these storms come up real fast and the flood is on the front lawn and we’re trying to quickly move the furniture but this time it was a weekend and we could do it in advance.”

The Philadelphia Canoe Club is one of the oldest paddling organizations in the country. Rau said she doesn’t expect flooding to start on the property until later tonight or tomorrow morning. For video of members riding canoes through the flooded clubhouse after Hurricane Floyd in 1999, watch this NewsWorks video and scroll to 2:54.

NewsWorks is heading over to the clubhouse this morning and will post another update (and photos) later in the day.

7:45 a.m. Monday update:

According to NewsWorks content partner NBC10, “officials predict a direct hit on the city that will unleash fierce winds and torrential rain and cause severe flooding and prolonged power outages.”

Hurricane Sandy, with winds reaching 80 mph, is expected to make landfall along the New Jersey coast around 11 p.m. and, according to Mayor Michael Nutter, “Philadelphia is directly in the path of this storm. Unless you need to be out on the streets or need to go somewhere, please stay home. Stay off the roads so our emergency responders are not putting themselves at risk.”

As of 6 a.m., the American Red Cross reported that 251 residents, and 17 pets, had arrived at shelters in Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.

Of those, 21 people and two pets are at the shelter set up at Roxborough High School.

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