UPPER SALFORD — A day after strong winds and rain accompanied by hail swept through parts of Montgomery County, with Upper Salford taking the brunt of the hit, the electricity was still off for the entire township and several roads were closed.
"None of our first responders and none of our residents have reported injuries as a result of this storm, so we're very thankful for that," said Kevin O'Donnell, a member of the Upper Salford Township Board of Supervisors and the municipality's emergency management coordinator.
As of about 4 p.m. Thursday, May 30, contact had been made with about 90 percent of the homes, he said.
"We have anywhere from 50 to 75 homes with structural damage, based on our initial assessment," O'Donnell said. "That number will most likely go up as we gain access and do a secondary assessment of damage."
The township was hit by straight line winds about 5 p.m. the previous evening, he said.
Along with Upper Salford Volunteer Fire Company and Harleysville Area Emergency Medical Services, Montgomery County Emergency Management and help from other municipalities and emergency services responders from as far away as Chester and Delaware counties came quickly, he said.
"It's also gratifying to see the number of residents that are out assisting their neighbors, making sure that they are secure and safe," O'Donnell said.
One of the biggest questions residents now have is how long the clean up will take, he said.
"This is going to take several days, even with a 24-hour continuous operation," he said. "There are still parts of the community that are inaccessible, but we anticipate having emergency access for safety purposes within the next two or three hours. The main impediment to that is the fact that we have so many trees down on PECO lines."
The damage is spread out, so power can't be restored as quickly as if repairs only had to be made at one place, he said.
Residents with police, fire or medical emergencies should call 911, he said. Those with general information, non-emergency questions can call 610-287-9324, he said.
The storm did extensive damage to trees and landscaping at his own home, but the home was not damaged, he said.
On Church Road, neighbors gathered outside trading information the afternoon following the storm and watching as work crews removed downed trees from their properties.
"We were home, didn't go to the basement, didn't know it was gonna be any big storm, no warning," Jim Delp, one of the neighbors, said.
Along with other downed trees on his property, one was on his shed and part of the garage, he said.
"I didn't take it off yet to know what the damage is. It's not that bad," Delp said.
"My shed lifted up 6 inches. Great big tree right next to it, big root ball, picked it right up off the ground," neighbor Paul Gable said.
"I came home from work and it was heavy rain starting, backed my truck into the garage and 'til I got into the house, it hit," Gable said. "The winds were coming, the rain, the hail. I thought the skylights were gonna break from all the hail."
His wife and cat went to the basement while he put on rain gear and went outside, where he slipped on the hail and fell while checking things out, he said.
Neighbor Pat Hughes said after watching the storm come across the mountain while sitting on her porch, the rain started and they went inside. While she was making dinner, the electric went off, she said.
"The rain came down sideways," she said.
"We thought at first we could just see like a branch fall, and then we realized it was trees," she said.
Along with uprooting trees, the wind blew a table off the patio, breaking the glass table top, she said.
Both Gable and Hughes said they had generators to provide partial electricity to their homes while the power was off.
Hughes said the generator at her home was being used primarily for the sump pump and, at times, for the refrigerator and freezer.
"Our basement would've flooded totally without the sump pump," she said.
The rain gauge at her home showed the storm dropped two inches of rain in a short time, she said.
"It's gonna be forever until it gets cleaned up," Hughes said as she showed a reporter one of the large uprooted trees in the back yard. "It's much, much worse than Superstorm Sandy. It's much worse."
Her husband was out getting gas for the generator, Hughes said. His truck had a cracked headlight, but could be driven, she said. As she spoke, work crews were removing a tree from her SUV. The roof had been pushed down, it had a cracked windshield and water had gotten inside, she said.
Her home was not damaged, but a tree went through the roof at another home in the neighborhood and water came in during the storm at that home, she said.
News helicopters were flying over the area that morning, she said.
"I imagine we're on the news, but we can't see it," Hughes said as the electricity remained off.
"This is what you see on the news. It's not what happens to you," she said. "This is like watching the news, only now you're part of it."