National Guard expected in Bristol Twp. tonight

Blog Image 982908 - Reed
A downed tree was cut to allow trafic to pass on Blue Ridge Drive in Levittown. Emergency workers called sections of Levittown "a war zone." (Bill Reed/Staff)

National Guard troops are expected to patrol Bristol Township starting Tuesday night to prevent looting of businesses darkened by superstorm Sandy.

The township also is instituting a 8 p.m.-to- 6 a.m. curfew in the areas without power, “which is almost everywhere,” township manager Bill McCauley said.

Township officials requested the National Guard troops about mid-day and were expecting the troops to start patrolling the streets by nightfall, said Emergency Management Coordinator Kevin Dippolito.

The request went through Bucks County officials to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. None of the other 53 municipalities in Bucks have made such a request, county spokeswoman Juliet Kelchner said.  

Bristol Township Police Chief James McAndrew said expected burglars to hit businesses as soon daylight disappears tonight.

“Last night, as soon as the wind stopped, we were handling burglaries and attempted burglaries,” McAndrew said. “They were hitting businesses from 3 a.m. until it got bright. They didn’t have to worry about [security] lights or alarms.”

Burglars also will hit uninhabited houses, the chief told a meeting of police, fire department and rescue squad workers Tuesday. “These knuckleheads are going to be in there for the copper.”

The township is under a state of emergency, and McAndrew has the backing of the board of commissioners in calling in the National Guard and setting a curfew, board President Bob Lewis said.

The township, one of the largest in the county, has nearly 23,000 PECO customers, and nearly 20,000 are without power.  Around the county, 180,000 customers were without power Tuesday.

Power outages even hit two of the three Red Cross shelters on Monday night. On Tuesday, the shelters at Council Rock North High School in Newtown and Palisades High School in Kintnersville remained open, and the Red Cross was trying to open a third shelter in Bristol Township.  

The storm hit Upper and Lower Bucks “very hard,” Kelchner said, and Central Bucks hard. “There are road closures everywhere, power lines down and trees down.”

Municipal officials have been asked to assess and report the damage to determine the worst-hit areas, Kelchner said. “It’s going to take a while.”

Especially hard hit were Durham and Nockamixon townships in Upper Bucks and Bristol, Bensalem and Warminster townships and Ivyland Borough in Lower Bucks, she said.

There were no fatalities connected to the storm, but two teenage brothers were seriously hurt and rescue workers were nearly killed when a tree toppled onto a Levittown house.

Ryan Dietrich, 19, was in stable condition in the intensive-care unit at Aria Health’s Torresdale hospital, and Kyle Dietrich, 15, was in stable condition, a nursing supervisor said.

Ryan Dietrich suffered a head injury and was in an induced coma, his grandmother, Mary Landis, said. Kyle Dietrich suffered a broken arm, she said.

The brothers were outside their house on Blue Ridge Drive around 7:30 p.m. Monday, when branches from an oak tree hit them, officials said.

One of them was “walking around, wounded,” and the other was trapped beneath branches when Christopher Reif, chief of the Levittown-Fairlesss Hills Rescue Squad, arrived.

Reif and five other squad members removed the teenager, and then the tree “came down and missed us by a couple of inches,” Reif said.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and this was the second time I felt was going to die,” he said.

Driving conditions were too dangerous and the brothers’ conditions were too serious to take them to St. Mary Medical Center, Reif said. Instead, they were taken to Aria Health’s Bucks hospital and later transferred to theTorresdale facility.

The victims’ father, Matt Dietrich, has worked for Home Depot for 19 years, and on Tuesday, about 15 co-workers were cutting up the downed tree and clearing the front yard as neighbors watched.

“One of the things about Home Depot is that we take care of our people and their neighborhood,” said Krista Sears, leader of the workers from the Bustleton store.

Once the yard is cleared, the co-workers will repair the crushed roof, broken front window and any other damage, Sears said.

“We’re doing the darnedest to give him all the support we can,” she added.