Mayor Wehrle declares disaster emergency

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsy mayor Jim Wehrle has declared a declaration of disaster emergency in the Borough of Punxsutawney effective Monday at 6 p.m. to enable staff and related officials to respond effectively to any possible impact of Hurricane Sandy in the borough.

The storm, which will begin to hit the mid-state area sometime Monday evening, is expected to bring heavy rain to the borough and region, resulting in low area flash-flooding and wind-related power outages, which could last for several days. Sustained high winds will likely contribute to tree damage around the borough as well.

"The borough has been preparing for Hurricane Sandy for days now, in terms of staffing, equipment and actions to increase and ensure safety, which is our number one priority," Wehrle said. "We have highly trained employees from police and firefighters to public works, and we are ready to respond as needed to this critical situation."

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's state disaster proclamation issued Friday evening authorizes state agencies to use all available resources and personnel as necessary to cope with the magnitude and severity of the emergency situation. The time-consuming bid and contract procedures, as well as other formalities normally prescribed by law, are waived for the duration of the proclamation.

Mayor Wehrle issued the borough disaster declaration based on Governor Corbett's proclamation, the recommendation of Jefferson County EMA Director Tracy Zents, Punxsutawney EMA Director Charlie Hoeh, as well as forecasts from the National Weather Service.

There are no travel restrictions or evacuations in effect at this time. Shelters have been identified and are on standby if needed.

Low-lying areas in the borough will likely be impacted by flooding Monday through Wednesday, and citizens are being asked to be alert to fast rising water and to obey all police street blockades.

Citizens are asked to report downed trees immediately by calling 938-6220.

Additionally, citizens are requested to clear leaves and other debris from drainage outlets in the neighborhood to reduced blockages in the borough's storm water system.

The borough remains in communication with multiple agencies, including Jefferson County EMA, PEMA, the National Weather Service and the State Police.

Punxsutawney citizens needing assistance should call 938-6220. If citizens have an emergency, they should call 911 immediately. When calling 911 to report an emergency, it is important for callers to stay on the line, even if for an extended series of rings, until the operator answers.

Hangups result in wasted time of emergency staff members, as the 911 center tries to re-establish connection.

Never call 911 to request or report road conditions or for non-emergency purposes. Power outages should be reported to the electric provider, not 911 or local police.