Philadelphia region returns to more seasonal weather

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A ghostly decoration on Bobarn Drive in Penn Valley proved less scary than the snowstorm that hit over the weekend.

Thousands of households in wooded areas of the Philadelphia suburbs were without power for a second night Sunday as utilities struggled to deal with the aftermath of a rare October snowstorm that lightly touched some areas but left others with a North Pole landscape.

During the sunny afternoon, goblins of wind-borne snow danced across sunlit meadows and swirled from car roofs in some areas Sunday, hinting of both Halloween and Christmas on one of the strangest autumn weekends many could recall.

"It's kind of disorienting," said Tom Kolimago, pointing to the purple blossoms of a butterfly bush sagging under heavy snow in Gladwyne's Richie Ashburn Park.

The Lower Merion community's wooded ravines were still heavy with the remnants of Saturday's freak snowstorm, which lightly dusted some parts of the region, snapped trees in others, and knocked out power to millions of customers from Georgia to Maine.

Peco Energy Co. spokeswoman Martha Phan described Saturday's snowstorm as the region's worst October storm ever for the company, with 250,000 residents without electricity. Bucks and Chester Counties were especially hard hit.

By Sunday late night, power had been restored to most customers, but thousands remained in the dark and cold. Daytime highs in the 40s had sunk back to freezing in the suburbs, causing melted snow to turn back to ice.

To give shelter in pockets of suburbia still in the cold, the Red Cross opened two "warming centers" Sunday - one at the Episcopal House Assisted Living Center on Center Street in Phoenixville; the other at William Penn Middle School in Yardley.

Food and blankets were provided at both sites.

Customers were advised to call 1-800-841-4141 to report problems and get updates on when power would return.

Black ice overnight caused treacherous conditions on the region's major highways. Skidding cars caused a 35-vehicle crash on I-95 north in Bristol Township at 2:40 a.m.

Pennsylvania State Police said there were no fatalities, and the extent of victims' injuries was not released. The accident is under investigation.

In Bucks County, two people were killed and two others injured when a driver on I-95 lost control of his vehicle on an icy stretch.

State police in Montgomery County worked until early afternoon Sunday to clear an accident and get traffic moving on I-476 near I-76. No injuries or fatalities were reported.

Most flights at Philadelphia International Airport arrived on time Sunday. Heavy snow on runways the day before cancelled many flights.

A downed tree in Haverford Township, Delaware County, knocked SEPTA's Paoli line out of commission Saturday. By noon Sunday, the line was running again, as were all of SEPTA's trains, buses, and trolleys, but the transit authority said commuters could expect some residual delays.

Sunday's cloudless sky, bright sunshine, and rising afternoon temperature returned a sense of normalcy to the region, making Saturday's slashing winds, rain, sleet, and snow seem all the more unreal.

Organizers of the Thomas Eakins Head of the Schuylkill Regatta were forced to cancel races Saturday after several of the 7,000 rowers showed signs of hypothermia.The meet began two hours late on Sunday.

No one was seriously injured, according to Robert J. Fleming, former president of the University Barge Club, sponsor of the regatta. It was the third cancellation of races in the regatta's 41 years.

"Many of them just weren't dressed for this," said Sandra Pearson, a club volunteer. With winds brisk and temperatures in the low 50s Sunday afternoon, some of the racers wore gloves and wool hats.

In Penn Valley, fields, lawns, and driveways were still coated with about five inches of snow at midday, much to the delight of 6-year-old Zack Bookbinder and brother Evan, 9.

With their father, Mark, waiting to intercept them, the boys were sledding down their steep driveway off Chermar Lane and into a neighbor's driveway. It was a day for snowball fights and driveway shoveling, too.

But for their grandparents visiting from Los Angeles, the snow and chill winds were an unwelcome surprise.

"We came for a treat and got a trick," Sadie Sachs joked as her husband, David, scraped slush from the windshield of their rental car.

But the day was a "real treat" for 45-year-old Andy Liddell, who spent the morning hiking Henry Lane, one of Gladwyne's wooded equestrian trails.

The air was clear, the thinning tree canopy allowed spectacular views of the blue sky, and the snow-coated trail made a satisfying crunch underfoot, Liddell said.

For Bob Horn, however, it was time to head to a warmer climate. He was on Hagys Ford Road in Penn Valley Sunday morning, watching the driver of an auto carrier load his white Bentley GTC convertible in preparation for a trip to Miami.

"I'm a snowbird," said Horn, 59, an exporter of used office equipment.

Each year he and his wife spend the cold months in Florida, "but this year," he said, gesturing toward the white lawns as far as the eye could see, "the snow beat me."

 


Contact staff writer David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723 or doreilly@phillynews.com.