Hurricane Sandy didn't bring the severe flooding that was predicted and her winds were not as intense as in other areas in the Northeast, but in the aftermath of one of the worst storms ever, thousands of Blair County residents were without power, suffering from cooling temperatures and damaged property.
"It was like a freight train, literally a freight train," said Tanya McClellan of 2611 Maple Ave., relating what she heard in "the middle of the night" as the wind tore away the siding of her rental home, sending pieces of the facade into the backyard.
To make matters worse, a power line came down on nearby 24th Street, taking out the electricity in her home and her neighborhood.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Workers from Davey Tree Expert Company of Clearfield work to remove an up-rooted spruce tree leaning on power lines along Laurel Drive in Tyrone. The power company was unable to restore electric until the workers cleared the line of fallen trees.
She said the home wasn't safe to live in.
As McClellan talked, she was eating food and drinking coffee provided by The Salvation Army, which opened a "warming center" Tuesday afternoon at 1813 Sixth Ave., a respite for those who were without electricity and heat.
She and her children had no place to go Tuesday night, McClellan said.
McClellan said she would probably take her family to a shelter in the Greenwood Fire Hall.
Warming centers were opened Tuesday afternoon in The Salvation Army Center and the Tyrone Senior Center, Blair County Emergency Management Director Dan Boyles said.
The centers will provide a place for people without electricity to go during the day. If they need a place for the night, they can go to the Greenwood shelter, he said.
"There are quite a few people without power," Salvation Army Capt. Dave Means said as residents began to drift into the large hall.
Outside Altoona, Tom Plowman estimated that wind gusts where he lived on Juniata Valley Road near Route 22, the entrance to Canoe Creek State Park, reached 60 mph.
Plowman was working inside a bait shop on Route 22 near his home at about noon Tuesday, and he recounted what happened to the home of his landlord and neighbor, Gene Claar.
He said that the wind was so bad Monday evening that it knocked over Claar's motorcycle and then uprooted a pine tree just outside the front door of the home, toppling the tree onto the roof of the Claar home while Claar and his wife, Trudy, were inside.
The force of the impact broke the top off the tree, sending it into the backyard.
Claar was not at home or in his bait shop Tuesday and was not able to be contacted.
Plowman said the lights flickered in that area of Frankstown Township throughout the night.
Many Blair County residents were directly affected by the seemingly endless rain and wind that swept through the county.
More than 5,200 Penelec customers were without power Tuesday evening, Penelec spokesman Scott Surgeoner said.
Power for the bulk of the customers will be restored in the "next day or two," but Surgeoner said there are problems in some areas that will take longer to repair, which could extend the outage for a few customers into Thursday and Friday.
The outages in Blair County were primarily located in Altoona and Antis and Snyder townships, said Surgeoner.
FirstEnergy, Penelec's parent company, has 7,500 linemen working to repair the electrical system in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.
Local crews are being assisted by workers from Ohio and the southern states.
The southern line crews are coming north after restoring power outages in their states, he said.
A downed power line in Northwood, just outside Tyrone, sparked a small garage fire, but it was taken care of quickly by volunteer firefighters already on scene, said Hookies Fire Company Chief Jeffrey Watson, who noted crews from the Bald Eagle and Tyrone fire companies spent most of their time dealing with trees and wires.
Watson said Penelec, in light of the situation, responded quickly to the dangerous live wire in Northwood that arced to the metal on a garage door that then caught fire.
Most of the damage, Watson said, occurred earlier Monday night.
"We wrapped up most of our operations by 1 a.m.," said Watson. Earlier, at dusk Monday, crews cutting up trees that toppled across Route 453 north of Tyrone couldn't keep up, Watson said.
Watson said the whipping winds created a hairy situation as the volunteers tried to clear the road of fallen trees.
"There were trees falling around us as were cutting those up," Watson said.
Tyrone Mayor Bill Fink, whose house was hit by one of his backyard trees, said he was briefed by the borough's emergency management coordinator and said power outages and trees were the biggest headache as the Bald Eagle Creek and Little Juniata River were able to handle the heavy rain without flooding.
"Now, it's just a matter of the clean-up," Fink said.
While many people are suffering because of the storm, local officials breathed a sigh of relief because it wasn't as bad as they expected.
Boyles said there was more than 2 inches of rain. Williamsburg Borough Manager Dennis "Perry" Clapper, the Juniata River in Williamsburg came close but did not top its banks.
"We've had it pretty good," he said Tuesday morning.
Borough officials prepared for the Juniata River, which has a history of flooding, to crest at 15 feet, which would have meant water seeping into nearby homes. The river crested at 10.83 feet, which brought a sense of relief.
Clapper theorized that while Hurricane Sandy brought "a pretty steady rain," but the ground was dry enough to absorb the water.
There were no evacuations in the borough, and one tree fell into a yard on First Street, Police Chief Rowdy Kagarise said.
Williamsburg Maintenance Supervisor Joe Lansberry, who is a supervisor in nearby Woodbury Township reported only a few trees down and an electric company transformer problem.
The story wasn't much different in Frankstown Township, usually an area that experiences intense flooding during periods of heavy rain.
Township Highway Foreman Paul Singer Jr., said he and his men and a crew of two worked all night removing downed trees.
"It wasn't as bad as it could have been. I personally think we were pretty lucky," said Singer, a 24-year veteran of many storms.
PennDOT spokeswoman Tara Callahan-Henry said Blair County crews worked early Tuesday to clear nine roads of fallen trees. Other highway crews were clearing trees from roads in Fulton, Huntingdon and Bedford counties.
While the rain may have been less than expected, it was very evident in the lowlands of Frankstown Township.
Hard-moving waves cascaded through what were normally fields and wooded areas of the township and PennDOT placed a large "Road Closed" sign at East Loop Road near Locke Mountain Road.
Brian Walls, a spokesman for the Geeseytown Volunteer Fire Company, said the river water along most roads was just about ready to flow over the banks.
"The river is handling it pretty well," Walls said.
Assessment crews will be busy the next few days attempting to put together a summary of damages for the state and federal governments, a step that could lead to financial help for those whose properties were damaged by Hurricane Sandy, Boyles said.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468. Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock contributed to this story.