WORKING IN BLUSTERY CONDITIONS  – Wind gusts of up to 50 mph Saturday (Feb. 19, 2011) blew down power wires and knocked out electricity in parts of Limerick PA Township and elsewhere. Utility company crews were busy (above) restoring power and reconnecting cables at the intersection of Ridge Pike and Airport Road (below).

A portion of the roadway was blocked for a time, and limited to one lane (above), as repairs continued. Limerick Fire Company responded to the scene and helped to direct traffic. Nearby, and across the area, the strong winds toppled trees and brush (below), and in some cases required professional clean-up.

Photos for The Post by Aimee M. Herbert, Aimee Marie Photography

POTTSTOWN PA – Although forecasters at AccuWeather helpfully announced this morning (Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011) that “the risk of weather-related migraines is low” across Limerick  and Lower Pottsgrove (PA) townships and the borough of Pottstown, what they didn’t address were other pounding headaches endured by motorists Tuesday night (Jan. 11) as up to 8 inches of snow fell on parts of the area.

This was “a nice, moderate, middle-of-the road storm,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Patrick O’Hara told the Associated Press. Although two storms — one from the south and one from the east – converged to create the latest weather nuisance, “nobody is going to be stuck in their homes for days and days,” O’Hara said.

Maybe so, but some of those caught outside seemed to be having a less-than-pleasant time of it.

Montgomery County emergency services dispatchers between 5:41 p.m. Tuesday and 2:03 a.m Wednesday sent police and first responder teams on 24 separate calls to deal with hazardous road conditions and many accidents at intersections in Lower and Upper Pottsgrove, Limerick and Royersford, Pottstown, Gilbertsville, Collegeville and Lower Providence, Douglassville, North Coventry, New Hanover and Green Lane. A list of their dispatches appears below.

As of 4:30 a.m. today, there was no snow in sight locally.

By 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, the snow has already cleared out of southeastern Pennsylvania, as shown by an AccuWeather map (above.) Along U.S. Route 422 from Pottstown to King of Prussia, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, salt trucks and plows had done their jobs; the road was deemed by its traffic advisory website as merely “clear and wet,” allowing traffic to move at speeds of up to 50 mph.

The snow may be gone, but nightly cold temperatures due to icy winds are expected to continue through Friday. Until then, the county has extended its Code Blue declaration, made when temperatures drop to below 20 degrees and pose a threat of serious harm or death to individuals without shelter.

County dispatchers surely hope the remainder of the week will be less frenetic than Tuesday. Here’s their list of local calls issued during the storm, displayed in descending order with the most recent first:

  • Traffic: Disabled Vehicle
    New Hanover Square Rd & Swamp Pike; New Hanover; 2011-01-12 @ 02:03:23;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident
    Rt422 Byp Wb & Ramp Evergreen Rd To Rt422 Wb; Lower Pottsgrove; 2011-01-11 @ 23:40:35;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident Injuries
    W High St & Berks St; Pottstown; 2011-01-11 @ 23:39:52;
  • Ems: Vehicle Accident
    W High St; Pottstown; 2011-01-11 @ 23:39:43;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident
    Rt100 Sb & W Moyer Rd; Upper Pottsgrove; 2011-01-11 @ 23:13:52;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident
    W Schuylkill Rd & River Bridge Rd; Berks County; 2011-01-11 @ 22:50:48;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident
    S Township Line Rd & Linfield Trappe Rd; Limerick; 2011-01-11 @ 22:47:32;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident’
    W Schuylkill Rd & Catfish Ln; Chester County; 2011-01-11 @ 22:44:28;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident
    Gravel Pike & Meadow Aly; Green Lane; 2011-01-11 @ 22:35:38;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident
    Rt100 Nb & Jackson Rd; Douglass; 2011-01-11 @ 21:56:59;
  • Ems: Vehicle Accident
    Rt422 & S Trooper Rd Overpass; Lower Providence; 2011-01-11 @ 21:52:45;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident Injuries
    Rt422 & S Trooper Rd Overpass; Lower Providence; 2011-01-11 @ 21:56:51;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident Injuries
    Rt422 & S Trooper Rd Overpass; Lower Providence; 2011-01-11 @ 21:54:24;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident
    Kepler Rd & Potter Dr; Lower Pottsgrove; 2011-01-11 @ 21:52:10;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident
    Rt422 & Airport Rd Overpass; Limerick; 2011-01-11 @ 21:41:31;
  • Traffic: Disabled Vehicle
    Rt422 Byp & Evergreen Rd Overpass; Lower Pottsgrove; 2011-01-11 @ 21:05:28;
  • Traffic: Disabled Vehicle
    Rt422 Byp & S Sanatoga Rd Underpass; Lower Pottsgrove; 2011-01-11 @ 20:49:37;
  • Ems: Vehicle Accident
    Rt422 & Ramp Rt422 Wb To Evergreen Rd; Limerick; 2011-01-11 @ 19:40:18;
  • Traffic: Hazardous Road Conditions
    Main St & S 3rd Ave; Royersford; 2011-01-11 @ 19:30:19;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident Rescue
    Rt422 & Ramp Rt422 Wb To Evergreen Rd; Limerick; 2011-01-11 @ 19:26:33;
  • Traffic: Hazardous Road Conditions
    Ridge Pike & Lakeside Dr; Limerick; 2011-01-11 @ 19:26:06;
  • Traffic: Hazardous Road Conditions
    Main St & Clamer Ave; Collegeville; 2011-01-11 @ 19:12:08;
  • Traffic: Hazardous Road Conditions
    Heather Pl & N State St; Upper Pottsgrove; 2011-01-11 @ 18:57:29;
  • Traffic: Vehicle Accident
    Rt100 Nb & Shoemaker Rd; Pottstown; 2011-01-11 @ 17:41:15

POTTSTOWN PA – Before they attend even a single session this week to hear about future career choices, eighth grade students in the Spring-Ford, Pottsgrove, Pottstown, Owen J. Roberts, Boyertown, and Perkiomen Valley school districts have learned a valuable lesson about the working world:

It pays to be prepared.

The Western Montgomery County School-to-Work Partnership‘s two-day “Youth Career Leadership Conference,” at which hundreds of area students will be introduced to the careers of about 40 invited speakers, was to have begun this morning (Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011). It’s already been postponed, a casualty of the snowstorm weather forecasters predict will hit the area beginning tonight and continuing through Wednesday.

With so many guests, and so much transit coordination needed between districts, the partnership thought it best to avoid complications and disruptions. So the conference has been shifted to alternative snow dates – the potential need for which was planned months ago – of Thursday and Friday (Jan. 14-15), beginning both days at 9 a.m. on the Pottstown campus of Montgomery County Community College.

The partnership is a self-sustaining group of business leaders, educators and other volunteers created 15 years ago to help show students the wide variety of job and career paths open to them. For many youths about to enter high school, its conference represents a real chance to start answering the question, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”

Surprisingly, given the area’s mercurial winters, the conference has never been postponed. “This is the first time in our history that we have had to utilize our snow dates,” organizers said in an e-mail distributed Monday (Jan. 10) to participants. “We realize … the decision is being made early; however, we feel this will be one less thing to worry about, especially if the storm arrives earlier than expected.”

Therein, of course, lies a lesson for those who will attend the conference. Their work lives will throw them curves, and they’ll need to be ready to adapt.

Professionals employed in all imaginable types of work are the guest speakers, and most seem able to change their schedules to fit the snow day shift. Students from each district (Spring-Ford eighth graders will be at Thursday’s sessions) get to choose four talks about careers that most appeal to them, and have their questions about them answered too. Both days will end with lunch.

Photo from Google Images

By Michael Jacobson
Penn State Cooperative Extension

LIMERICK PA – With winter here, with temperatures dropping into the ’20s as they have so far this week across Limerick and  Lower Pottsgrove PA townships and the borough of Pottstown, and with more snow on the way, the demand is getting stronger for firewood to stoke the home hearth. In fact, the firewood market is fairly robust these days.

The definition of "coziness."

Just open the newspaper and you’ll see lots of firewood ads. Supplying firewood is an industry that provides part-time work and extra cash for families this time of the year. Many land owners also enjoy cutting firewood for their own use. It involves very little expense – to buy a chainsaw, safety equipment, wedges, a splitting maul – and use of a small pick-up truck or trailer.

Burning firewood for heat is environmentally friendly and offers good value for the money. Unlike coal, oil and gas, which are non-renewable fossil fuels that contribute greenhouse gas emissions, wood (if sustainably harvested) is a local and renewable energy resource.

How does a consumer decide what firewood to buy and where to buy it? There are three main considerations: price, quantity, and quality.

Pricing firewood

Firewood prices differ across regions and generally are higher in urban areas, more distant from the woods. Normally, prices are for wood delivered to a house, but check to see if there is an additional transportation cost, whether it is stacked or just dumped in a pile, and if the wood is split and cut to length to fit your heating appliance.

If you heat with oil, wood can save you money. If you use coal, wood won’t be as cost-efficient, but it’s a close second. Penn State Cooperative Extension draws these conclusions by measuring heating efficiency; it looks at equivalent prices per heating unit for alternative fuels.

For example, to get the same amount of heat produced by a $150 cord of firewood, in equivalent heating units you’d pay about $1.20 a gallon for heating oil or 90 cents a therm for natural gas. Of course, current prices for oil and gas are now much higher; heating oil sells for about $3 a gallon, and gas is more than $1 a therm. Compared to them at today’s costs, wood is a bargain.

A word of caution: if you buy or gather firewood, stay local. Much of Pennsylvania is under quarantine for the emerald ash borer, an insect that threatens ash trees. Another insect, although not currently found in the state, is the Asian long-horned beetle. If it gets here, could cause major damage to many of our tree species. Burning wood close to its source, therefore, makes sense and protects forests.

Firewood quantity

Tightly stacked wood makes for a good cord.

Wood is often sold by the cord. By state law, a cord is 128 cubic feet (4’x4’x8′), but can be sold in portions and must be accompanied by a statement or invoice certifying the amount sold and presented to the buyer at the time of delivery or billing. The law also says “firewood may not be advertised or sold by the truck load, the pile, the piece or any other method other than by the cord” or a fraction thereof.

The problem with the term “a truck load” is that it can refer to anything from a pick-up truck (a fifth- or a half-cord) to a pulpwood truck (carrying four or more cords).

How do you know you are getting a cord? You have to stack it. A 4’x4’x8′ pile of wood has lots of air spaces between individual sticks. The solid wood volume will vary by the diameter and length of sticks in the stack. Generally it will contain 80 to 100 cubic of wood. Haphazardly stacked wood will obviously have a lower wood-to-volume ratio than a tight and uniform stack. By insisting on having your wood neatly stacked, you get a better idea of whether it is a true cord.

Firewood quality

Here’s good news: Pennsylvania has high-density hardwood species, which are among the best burning firewood available.

Denser woods weigh up to 3 tons per cord, while lighter woods have about 1-1/2 to 2 tons per cord. Beech, birch, some maples, hickory, and oak are among the most common species in Pennsylvania and also among the densest. Many consumers prefer hardwood species for firewood because they offer more heat per volume and, when dry, are less likely to result in creosote build-up problems.

Firewood is best for burning when it has 20-percent or less moisture content, which takes a year or more of drying under roof and off the ground.

The moisture content for wood varies: green (wet) wood can have 50- to more than 100-percent moisture content; yes, wet wood actually can contain more weight in water than it does weight in wood, depending on the species. Air-seasoned wood is 20- to 25-percent moisture, and wood for furniture is about 4 to 6 percent. Burning unseasoned wood wastes energy, because the moisture has to be driven off before combustion can occur. Split wood dries out faster.

Wood can make for a happier and warmer winter. Before you make a purchase, though, check to ensure you are getting a cord worth of wood, make sure it is dry, is good quality hardwood cut to your needs, and is stacked upon delivery.

LIMERICK PA – Mark it down, and they will come.

Boy, did they.

Tens of thousands of shoppers swarmed across the Philadelphia Premium Outlets, 18 W. Lightcap Rd., Limerick PA, during the weekend (Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 9 and 10, 2010) to pick up bargains and to check out what was new at the center’s 150 stores, which collectively staged their annual Columbus Day Sale. The sale bean Friday (Oct. 8) and continues through closing tonight (Monday, Oct. 11).

Many retailers offered at least 50 percent off their in-store prices, and several provided bonuses of up to 80 percent off. Shoppers responded in droves, packing the outlets’ parking lots on successive days and, on occasion, creating traffic back-ups on West Lightcap and Evergreen roads.

Most guests to the center inevitably drove past the earth-moving operations that will form the foundation for the Gateway At Sanatoga shopping center, now under construction at the intersection of West Lightcap and Evergreen, just west of the outlets’ location. The construction equipment was not active and silent throughout the weekend.

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SCHWENKSVILLE PA – A free wildflower walk will be held Saturday (Sept. 25, 2010) at 9:30 a.m. at the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, Haldeman Road and Route 73, Schwenksville PA, as part of its September pre-school science class.

Guests will meet at the Crusher Road entrance to the Perkiomen Trail. Link Davis, wildflower enthusiast and explorer, leads the walk. Pre-registration is required. For more information or to register, call 610-287-9383.

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ROYERSFORD PA – Limerick (PA) Township may soon be the latest local example of how solar power can shine as an alternative energy source, as the Kohl’s Department Store, 989 S. Township Line Rd., Royersford PA, prepares to outfit its roof with an array of solar panels to generate electricity for its own use.

The Lakeview Shopping Center, South Township Line Road, Royersford is shown in a Google satellite image, with an inset photo of the Kohl's there.

Township Manager Daniel Kerr told members of the Board of Supervisors, during their meeting Tuesday (July 20, 2010) in the municipal building, 646 W. Ridge Pike, that representatives of Kohl’s last week had applied for a building permit to install equipment that will gather and convert the sun’s energy into usable power intended to reduce the retailer’s energy costs.

Moving away from traditional energy sources, and increasing reliance on alternatives, as been a Kohl’s corporate mission for several years. Just five days earlier, on July 15, the Wisconsin-based company announced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy had awarded a 500th Kohl’s location with an Energy Star designation. The label is granted under specific standards to acknowledge a commitment to energy management and efficiency.

In its press release, Kohl’s estimated it has already saved almost $50 million in energy efficiencies wrung from its stores during the past four years.

If the Limerick permit is granted and the work at the Royersford store completed, it would join other Kohl’s locations in California, Colorado, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, California and Oregon using solar-generated energy from its rooftop and other sources. Kohl’s claims it is the largest retail host of solar power, and that its distributed solar program is the largest in the world among retailers.

A Kohl’s executive vice president, in a Business Week magazine interview regarding the company’s earlier solar installations, said an array like that planned for the Royersford rooftop in the Lakeview Shopping Center may not earn an immediate return on its investment. As the cost of oil rises and utility prices increase, however, the retailer should continue to enjoy significant savings over 20 years, he noted.

Although Kerr did not disclose the specifics of the Royersford Kohl’s building permit application, similar installations on a typical Kohl’s store of 88,000 square feet reportedly have involved more than 2,300 solar panels. A 2008 Kohl’s estimate said its average solar panel installation provided “30 percent of a store’s annual energy, or enough to power 54 homes annually.”

Kohl’s also last week announced that beginning in Spring 2011 all its newly constructed stores will be designed to qualify for Energy Star designation.

Related (to the Limerick Township Board of Supervisors’ July 20 meeting):

Satellite map image from Panoramio; Kohl’s store inset from LoopNet

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