Last updated: February 19. 2013 2:55PM - 364 Views

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A neighbor called Mary Jo Janssen on Tuesday morning warning her to be careful because a snapped power line had landed on the driveway of her Wright Township home.

When she and her father, Tom Popko, stepped outside to investigate, they discovered the equally disturbing cause: Hurricane Sandy uprooted a 20-foot pine tree, which now rested on the remaining utility lines along state Route 309.

Want a Christmas tree? Popko said, trying to make light of the situation.

Popko said he had removed several mature trees from his property in January. He had offered to donate the pine to Wilkes-Barre for a Christmas tree on Public Square last year, but another tree already had been selected.

The pine and a downed utility pole on another nearby property prompted emergency officials to close busy Route 309 in both directions between Walden Drive and Church Road. The state transportation department expects the stretch to reopen by noon today.

The neighbor's warning came through because Popko and Janssen keep an old non-cordless phone that worked after the power went out at 2:37 a.m.

Janssen dusted the home to keep busy Tuesday while her father stayed warm by a gas fireplace. They had filled jugs with well water in anticipation of a possible outage.

It's boring. At least the newspaper came, Popko said, settling into his chair to read as he waited for utility workers to arrive.

He was still waiting at 5 p.m.

I'm worried. If those wires collapse, the tree could fall on somebody's car, he said.

Foster Township resident Rick Scott said his power went out around 8:30 p.m. Monday. White Haven was dark when he drove through before 6 a.m. Tuesday heading to Wilkes-Barre for work. He had to take detours to get to state Route 115 because Route 437 to Mountain Top was blocked.

There were a lot of branches and leaves on the roads. I had to drive really slow, Scott said.

More than 150 residents and 30 businesses in Hazle Township were still without power late Tuesday afternoon, including the Sheetz at Airport Road and Route 309, said township Fire Chief Scott Kostician.

Emergency crews responded to 27 calls during the storm, including the blowout of a section of roof over three classrooms at the Hazleton Area School District's ninth-grade center, Kostician said. Sections of six township roads were closed for tree and utility repairs.

Like many township residents without power, Anita Farace came to Dunkin' Donuts on 309 for coffee Tuesday morning, only to learn that wasn't an option because the store had no electricity to brew it.

Farace said she was relieved she left her car outside because she wouldn't want to figure out how to circumvent the automatic garage door opener. She left on a mission to find hot coffee elsewhere.

We're all right, but my house is beginning to get cold, she said.

A steady stream of motorists drove past Dunkin' Donuts' storm-toppled drive thru menu sign attempting to order coffee Tuesday morning.

Store manager Jodie Jones and employee Marcia Cunningham dressed warmly to keep selling doughnuts and other baked goods. Customers had to pay cash because the credit and debit card readers were down.

We're selling a lot of doughnuts, Jones said.

Several motorists pulled up to Turkey Hill on Route 309 to fuel up, only to realize the pumps didn't work.

A sign on the door said open for ice water, cigs and candy until power was restored to that part of the township shortly after 11 a.m.

At the Hollenback Fire Station in the Parsons section of Wilkes-Barre, which lost power Monday night along with much of Plains Township, emergency responders worked on a broken down generator Tuesday afternoon.

It only goes down when you need it, an emergency medical technician quipped. Murphy's Law.

Capt. Jack Kelly said firefighters and EMTs at the station were able to receive calls from Luzerne County through handheld radios.

We're doing the best we can, Kelly said. We're getting a lot of calls -- people with water issues; people with home health problems; the usual array of things.

Times Leader staff writer Matt Hughes contributed to this report.

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