Storm clean-up still on Big Run Council’s mind

BIG RUN — Once again the Big Run War Memorial came to the rescue in the time of emergency, providing shelter for people without power following numerous thunderstorms with high winds that knocked out power in the Big Run, Gaskill and Henderson Township areas this summer.

Bob Hartman, the emergency management administrator for Big Run Borough and Gaskill Township, said at Monday's Big Run Council meeting that it has been a very busy summer of heavy storms and high winds, which have caused power outages throughout the area.

"Those storms have prompted us to activate the emergency shelter at the Big Run War Memorial for victims of the storms who were left without electric due to fallen trees from the high winds, which knocked out power lines," Hartman said, adding that the Big Run Volunteer Fire Company, other area fire departments and emergency personnel did a great job in cleaning up all of the trees and power lines that were knocked down because of the storms.

Hartman said the big problem is the north end of Big Run is on a different power grid, and it takes a long time to bring power back once it's down.

One thing they have going at the War Memorial is that the Salvation Army and Red Cross have food and water stored there that does not require refrigeration for those who need shelter early in a storm or in its aftermath, he said.

"The last storm, both the north and south ends of Big Run were pretty much inaccessible. In fact, I had to come up Jackson Run Road to access the area following the storm," Hartman said, adding that some response times may be delayed due to not having access to the main roads due to trees and power lines being knocked down.

He said the borough and the township need to start thinking about planning for a worst case scenario due to predictions of a hard, nasty winter.

"One of the things I'm not going to do is, once the shelter is set up, to stay up here," he said, "Once the relief organizations are here at the War Memorial, I'll head back out onto the back roads to see how many residents are out for the count."

Big Run Mayor Joseph Buterbaugh asked Hartman what the guidelines are for calling the Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

"Do we have to be out two days before you call them in?" Buterbaugh asked.
Hartman said if he sees the power is out for even a short period, he'll call them in immediately if needed.

Buterbaugh asked how many people were evacuated to the War Memorial during the last two storms.

"I'd say for the last storm, there were about 20 citizens who evacuated and came over to the shelter, mostly because there was a lunch that was being served, which brought people in," Hartman said.

He said during the first storm, it was less than 10.

Nick Lantz, council president, said the fire company went through the area announcing that the shelter was open, which helped alert citizens.

Stan Derise, council member and Big Run Fire Dept. chief, said some people will stay in a warm house with no electric and water running out of their refrigerator during the summer, as opposed to winter when the heat is out.

Buterbaugh said he was told by Penelec that it is replacing lines in the Big Run area, which should help prevent power outages from storms quite as often.

Derise said another problem is that it is difficult to get a direct answer from Penelec as to when it will be here to restore the power.

Lantz said to just keep up what emergency management is doing, and the War Memorial is there to be used for emergencies.

Hartman said just because power is restored in one area, that doesn't mean Penelec is aware that the power may be out in another area.

"People need to contact the power company to alert them that their power is still out before they clear its trouble ticket," he said.

Council approved a motion to give a donation of $200 to the Big Run Fire Company for its work in storm clean up and $50 to Doug Brocious to offset his fuel costs for the work he did in removing the many downed trees.