---- — The first indications that a momentous storm was brewing came last week when weather forecasters started piecing together information suggesting that the collision of Hurricane Sandy and a cold front would create a "perfect storm." As the seriousness of the situation became more apparent, the planning commenced. Emergency crews scheduled meetings to make sure they had resources lined up to cope with potential flooding. Electric utilities marshaled personnel to handle the blackouts expected to come as falling limbs brought down power lines. Roughly 1,600 workers from utilities as far away as Florida and Iowa descended upon Pennsylvania to lend a hand with the post-storm cleanup.
The hurricane claimed 39 lives and statewide, the storm left 1.3 million people without power. Portions of New Jersey and New York were underwater from record storm surges. West Virginia was buried under 18 inches of snow.
Locally, schools and many businesses closed on Monday. At the peak, more than 6,000 homes and businesses in Northumberland, Union, Snyder and Montour counties were without power. But compared to the impact elsewhere, most in the Valley escaped relatively unscathed.
Emergency planners responded diligently. School officials reacted with an abundance of caution by reworking their schedules to avoid students and parents from having to scramble in dangerous weather.
In Union County, where a jury is hearing testimony in the murder trial of Roderick Sims, even with the hurricane bearing down, raging wind and driving rain, the trial continued well into the afternoon on Monday. Jurors were given Tuesday morning off and told to return so the proceedings could resume. County governments in Snyder and Union county open as usual on Tuesday. In Sunbury, the Northumberland County Courthouse and administration building remained dark. There was no power outage in Sunbury, but the county government took another day off, an island of conspicuous inactivity in a sea of dedicated and visible public service response to the storm.
In difficult times, our democracy looks to government officials for inspirational leadership and dedicated service. If government offices close so that staff can help man Red Cross shelters or otherwise help citizens impacted by the storm, that would be laudable. Taking an extra day off to stay out of the rain is something else.
We expect better, and thankfully, in most cases, the public was provided better service by those who rose to the occasion in a time of crisis.