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President signs Emergency Declaration for Pennsylvania

President Obama has declared an emergency in Pennsylvania following the recent severe winter storm that left hundreds of thousands without electric and heat. The declaration orders federal aid to supplement commonwealth and local response efforts. This Presidential announcement came only hours after Governor Tom Corbett signed a disaster emergency proclamation last night.

"At the height of this storm, nearly 849,000 customers were without power in Pennsylvania," Governor Corbett said last night. "This will be a days-long recovery process, and we're utilizing this disaster declaration to speed up state assistance to all affected parts of the state."

Just as the Governor’s proclamation authorized state agencies – the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) - to use all available resources and personnel to assist local authorities, the President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts. This is aimed at alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local and state agencies.

The Presidential Declaration is authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act. The counties hardest hit were Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia, and York.

Specifically, FEMA is now authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency, according to a press release form the White House.

Pennsylvania is still recovering after Wednesday’s ice storm, which knocked out power to schools, businesses, homes and even hospitals. In Lancaster County, the American Red Cross opened shelters in York, East Hempfield and Quarryville Wednesday night. Columbia Fire Stations also opened their doors as warming stations.

The Red Cross opened a shelter in Chester County at West Chester University (WCU). It is at the Sturzebecker Health Science Center, 850 South New Street (South Campus), West Chester. The Chester County Animal Response Team was also called to WCU for support.

"Chester County faces some significant challenges with these power outages," said Deputy Emergency Manager Robert Kagel, Chester County.

PPL Electric Utilities alone are still reporting over 12,000 people without power in their coverage area. Lancaster County remains the hardest hit with just shy of 10,000 without power at 4:30 p.m. PPL reports 1,400 are without electric in Chester County. The power outages have become more widespread throughout the County, affecting almost every municipality. Many of them were told not to expect power until Saturday!

The ice accumulates of the power lines and then the lines snap. A half-inch of ice, according to the Weather Channel, can add 500 pounds of extra weight on those power lines. The ice can also increase the weight of branches by 30 times. Thus the branches break under that pressure and fall on the lines.

Manheim Township is working to remove felled trees and tree limbs on the Township roads. This will allow PPL quicker access to repair the lines. The Township announced yesterday: “Due to the number of downed limbs and trees on Township roadways, Township employees and contractors will remove the limbs and trees from the roadway and place them off of and along the edge of the roadway. The property owner will be responsible for disposal of the woody debris.”

The announcement also stated that residents can bring that debris to the Township Compost Park, located at 2775 Oregon Pike, for FREE disposal from now until Friday, 21 February. The Compost Park will be open daily during daylight hours.

Motorists can check conditions on major roadways by visiting 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, average traffic speeds on urban interstates and access to more than 650 traffic cameras. 511PA is also available by calling 511, and regional Twitter alerts are available on the 511PA website. Do NOT call 911 to check on the roads or to report a power outage.

Today the National Weather Service (NWS) predicted a mostly sunny day. Friday as well should be partly sunny. The Lancaster and Chester County areas may see even more snow on Saturday or Sunday.

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