Sandy hits the Lehigh Valley

Tree down on a fence on Glendale Avenue in Bethlehem Tuesday. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / October 30, 2012)

The local impact of Hurricane Sandy became more catastrophic for the Lehigh Valley with the deaths of two more people, bringing the region's death toll to four as of Wednesday morning.

A Lower Macungie Township woman died from the fumes from a portable gas generator left running in the garage attached to her home, and a South Whitehall Township woman died from exposure in her yard, according to the Lehigh County coroner's office.

Tammy Kerosetz, 48, of the 3600 block of Schoeneck Road, was pronounced dead in her home 5:08 p.m. Tuesday of carbon monoxide poisoning, but the coroner's office said she died before 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Theresa Schlitzer, 86, was found dead in the yard of her home in the 2400 block of Route 309 Tuesday morning. She was pronounced dead at 9:45 a.m., and the coroner's office attributed her death to hypothermia from prolonged exposure that began some time after 10:30 p.m. Monday.

Their deaths bring the Lehigh Valley area's death toll from Hurricane Sandy to four.

Robert Mills, 17, of Wind Gap, died in Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest after crashing an all-terrain vehicle into a fallen tree on W. Center Street in Plainfield Township 9:30 p.m. Monday, and a 62-year-old Berks County man, Gerald Witman, was killed when a tree fell on his Pike Township home near Boyertown.

At least three other people in Pennsylvania suffered storm-related deaths Monday, and the U.S. death toll was nearing 40, according to The Associated Press.

For the 7.4 million families across the eastern seaboard without electricity, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy ranged from inconvenient for those who had to scramble for find hot coffee to life-threatening for those who depend on electrical medical devices.

Even for those who didn't lose electricity, didn't suffer property damage, didn't lose a loved one, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, won't be forgotten — especially for the lucky ones like Joe Konrath.

The Allentown man was stopped at a red light in Bethlehem at W. Union Boulevard and Pennsylvania Avenue while on his way home from work when a tree crashed onto his car.

"It was one of the most scariest things I've experienced in a while," said Konrath, a product manager at Backstage Library Works.

Trying to contain his panic, Konrath dialed 911 on his mobile phone after realizing he couldn't open his car door. He squirmed into the back seat and exited a passenger door.

Police said Konrath could have been crushed if the tree had snapped instead of uprooting as it did, falling in a smooth motion onto the roof of his 2002 Chevy Malibu.

"I feel extremely, extremely fortunate," said Konrath, who stayed home for the remainder of the storm with his wife and daughter and without losing power as millions of others did.

ELECTRIC POWER

Gov. Tom Corbett said the state, like Konrath, had "dodged a bullet" despite the deaths, massive power outages and damage to buildings from wind and water.

Around 1.25 million Pennsylvania utility customers, primarily in southeastern Pennsylvania, were without power as of noon Monday. Nearly 1,000 people sought refuge in one of the dozens of emergency shelters opened in about half of the state's 67 counties.

PPL Electric Utilities and First Energy's Met-Ed, which service most of the Lehigh Valley region, are slowly restoring power to the remaining 197,000 customers still out Wednesday morning in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

To some, it will be extremely slow — up to two weeks — before their power is turned back on.

As of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, PPL had about 287,000 customers without power throughout its 29-county territory. Of those, about half or 145,244 are in Lehigh and Northampton counties.