Battling Cold with No Power after Tornado in Benton

UPDATE: The National Weather Service upgraded the tornado that hit the Benton area to an EF-2 with winds estimated to 115 mph. The tornado was on the ground for nearly four miles and was 300 yards wide.

(Original story)

BENTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- The damage in Benton Township is widespread after an EF-2 tornado touched down early Monday morning and there is no power for thousands of people.

Many are struggling to stay warm. Temperatures dipped below freezing Monday night into Tuesday.

"I have a handicapped dad who is in a wheelchair. He's paralyzed in a hospital bed. I have three kids and animals. It's been cold, and the generator ran out of gas at 5 a.m.," said Amy Albert of Benton Township, who does not have power to heat her home.

PPL officials said Tuesday they are working on the problem and hope to have power back on for everyone in Columbia County by 11 p.m. or sooner.

They brought in contractors from Canada to get the work done as quickly as possible.

Christina Meikrantz has her kids bundled up in blankets inside their Benton Township home.

"Lots of blankets, the kids kind of huddle together, sleeping bags. Fuzzy socks, the whole nine yards. Kind of like blanket forts," said Meikrantz.

This is hardly the first hardship for people in Benton. This community has been slammed by flooding over the years.

Many are still cleaning up and making repairs from last year's flood.

"We've been through floods, two and seven years. This is the third episode we've had to take down trees at our property and down at the park. It's amazing, it seems to be just a small endemic area of catastrophe," said John Shonis of Benton Township.

People living in the Benton area said weathering the disasters together has made for a tight-knit community.

"Yesterday, all you saw was people just outside, chainsaws, helping each other. Cutting trees on tops of peoples' houses. People lost their roofs and they were just all up the road. All you saw was a line of people. It was awesome," said Albert.

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