RIVERSIDE — Wind gusts in excess of 60 mph associated with a line of severe thunderstorms overturned a tractor-trailer crossing the Danville/Riverside bridge and felled numerous trees Tuesday, knocking out power to more than 70,000 PPL customers.
Multiple 9-1-1 calls for pole fires, downed power lines and trees were reported to the Northumberland County Communications Center following the 3 p.m. storms. As of 7 p.m., PPL reported 1,028 customers in Montour County, 2,733 in Northumberland and 5,162 in Columbia were without power.
The Riverside/Danville bridge was closed for nearly three hours after strong winds caused a 2015 Freightliner tractor-trailer to flip onto its passenger side and land on a barrier that protects vehicles from plunging into the Susquehanna River.
Riverside PoliceChief Kerry Parkes said the rig, owned by American Highway Inc., based in Illinois, and hauling 5,800 pounds of plastic bottles, was traveling west toward Danville at the Northumberland/Montour County line when the incident occurred.
The chief said the driver, Mariusz Jarosz, of Des Plaines, Illinois, was transported by Danville Ambulance to Geisinger Medical Center for a hand injury. Northumberland County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) oversaw cleanup of spilled diesel fuel and oil. The rig was uprighted by Aurand’s Towing and Recovery.
Assisting were Mahoning Township police, Southside Fire Co., Danville Fire Police, Montour County EMA, Danville police and Northridge Group, Inc.
‘Where to start?’
About a mile away from the bridge, as crews were dealing with thetractor-trailer, Steven Spotts, of 724 Sunbury Road, was gazing at a decades-old tree blocking both lanes of travel that an hour earlier had been standing on a corner of his yard. Spotts was relieved the tree did not damage his home, although it did take a power and cable line with it.
Spotts was on his porch when he noticed the tree begin to sway. The wind began to die down, he said, but a last gust of wind was the final straw.
“I don’t know where to start,” he said, looking at the massive trunk. “There is a lot of weight on that line. I can’t believe it didn’t snap the pole. I don’t thinkI am getting power back for awhile.”
Danger on the roads
In Elysburg, firefighters used chainsaws to cut one of at least two large trees that fell at Ralpho Community Park. Limbs and leaves were scattered around the park, which was recently tidied up.
About two miles west of Snydertown, Stonington Volunteer Fire Co. firefighters secured a section of Snydertown Road where a tree fell on a power line, which snapped a nearby pole and caused a high-voltage line to fall across the road.
Stonington Chief Kerry Yordy said a man put himself in danger before firefighters arrived by intentionally driving near the live wire in an attempt to alert other drivers. He reportedly got out ofhis vehicle when a firefighter approached, but was immediately told by the first responder to get back in.
Various roads, including Snydertown Road, were closed throughout the evening until issues were addressed.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in State College on Tuesday issued 20 thunderstorm warnings and six tornado warnings, including one for Northumberland County; however, there were no confirmed reports of tornadoes as of Tuesday evening, according to meteorologist Aaron Tyburski.
Tyburski said the Selinsgrove airport recorded a wind gust of 52 mph and a weather station three miles south of Berwick had a gust of 50 mph. Reports of multiple trees down and a tractor-trailer knocked on its side are consistent with wind speeds in the 60 to 65 mph range, he said.