More rain complicates storm cleanup; emergency declared

Millvale hit again; Rt. 837 washed out in West Mifflin

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A state of emergency was declared today for Allegheny County after storms dumped up to 3.5 inches of rain this morning and another line of severe storms moved through this afternoon.

A third storm line drifted through the region this evening, complicating cleanup efforts and putting more water on the ground although without the scale of damage that sent emergency workers and residents scrambling earlier in the day.

Law enforcement had reported a tornado in east Central Ohio's Columbiana County near Beaver Creek State Park around 6 p.m. The National Weather Service, which had the county under a tornado warning, said the funnel was reported to be moving east at 30 miles per hour.

Even as the cleanup continued in flooded Millvale and on major roads around the region because of the morning's rain, more storms struck this afternoon, accompanied by a tornado warning for northern Allegheny County that has since expired but that generated an unconfirmed report of funnel clouds.

The tornado warning was prompted by a severe thunderstorm six miles northwest of Franklin Park around 2:30 p.m. The storm moved quickly across the North Hills and into the eastern suburbs. As of 4 p.m., Duquesne Light reported it had 90,000 customers without power. Hardest hit were Hampton, Monroeville, O'Hara, Penn Hills, Plum, Ross and Shaler in Allegheny County. As of 5 p.m., Allegheny Power officials said 28,000 Western Pennsylvania customers were without power, about 20,000 of them in Westmoreland County.

People visiting the Carnegie Science Center reported seeing a funnel cloud that moved up the Ohio River and struck the building. Windows were blown out on the third floor, and a girl's hand was bandaged after she was cut. The science center will be closed tomorrow.

There were also unconfirmed reports of funnel clouds in northern Allegheny County.

Along the 2100 block of Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh, several homes were damaged by high winds.

Westmoreland Emergency Operation Center reported one person had minor injuries after "minor entrapment" when a building under construction along Route 30 in North Huntingdon collapsed.

Despite expiration of the tornado alert, a severe thunderstorm warning and a flash flood warning continued into tonight for Allegheny, Washington, Fayette and Westmoreland counties. Radar showed another line of strong storms moving through central and eastern Ohio.

This morning's storms and the prediction of more to come prompted Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato to declare a state of emergency in the county. The county established a mobile command center at the Millvale Fire Department and provided two trucks full of sand for bagging. In Pittsburgh, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl also declared a state of emergency and asked residents to stay home tonight.

Girty's Run began causing flooding in Millvale before 9 a.m., eventually covering several streets and leaving mud and flooded homes and vehicles as the water receded. Some of the same area was flooded Sunday after a downpour that forced Girty's Run over its banks.

The H.J. Ossman and Son heating and cooling business, next to the creek on Fornoff Street, was flooded with three feet of water. Family members spent today washing off the mud from equipment. The business got more than a foot of water on Sunday.

The Red Cross said it had arranged for shelters to open at the Millvale Recreation Center on Lincoln Avenue, as well as at Hilltop Hall on Harper Drive in Turtle Creek, in case anyone is displaced by flooding.

New damage reports, including to some major highways, continued to come in this afternoon, some from the morning storm and some from the second round.

This afternoon, a tree was down across Center Road in Monroeville, headed toward Plum, backing traffic that exited from Route 48. Along Reechburg Road in Penn Hills, the parking lot at Shrodi's Place restaurant was knee-deep in water.

PennDOT reported that a "major washout" occurred on Route 837 between Camp Hollow and Philip Murray roads in Dravosburg because of the first storm. The major highway will be closed through next week. The detour will use Camp Hollow Road, Lebanon Church Road, Dravosburg Road, Route 148 and the Duquesne McKeesport Bridge.

National Weather Service radar at 1:30 p.m. of the storm that swept through Allegheny County and on into Westmoreland and Indiana counties.
Click photo for larger image.
See the latest radar image for the Pittsburgh area

At 3:15 p.m. PennDOT reported that a large tree was down on the Parkway East outbound near Grant Street, blocking the slow lane and half the middle lane. Traffic is single lane through area. Crews are on the scene. A short time later, an inbound lane of the Parkway East near Bates Street was closed by a mud slide.

Many other roads were closed or debris-covered.

Roads that remained closed at mid-afternoon included Grant Street in Etna; part of Freeport Road near Powers Run Road, O'Hara; and Pennsylvania Avenue, White Oak.

Route 130 in Penn Hills reopened this afternoon between Frankstown Road and Allegheny River Boulevard, but traffic signals were out on Allegheny at Sandy Creek and Nadine roads. Signals were also out at Bigelow Boulevard and Herron Avenue, a busy, five-way intersection.

PennDOT said Lowries Run Road at Rochester Road in Ross and Babcock Boulevard at Evergreen Road in the Ross-Shaler area had been reopened following cleanup.

PennDOT said Route 28 between Fox Chapel and Route 8 was reduced to a single lane due to a mud slide for a time before it was cleared.

Freeport Road near St. Margaret Hospital was also closed until debris was cleared. Route 22 between Berkshire Drive and Manor Road/Mellon Road in Murrysville also reopened to traffic.

A car also got stuck in high water at Washington and Allegheny River boulevards near Highland Park. Washington was then closed for a time by the city between Allegheny and Negley Run boulevards.

The storms affected bus service throughout the county.

Bob Grove, the spokesman for Port Authority of Allegheny County, said service in Millvale, Aspinwall, Etna and Sharpsburg was essentially eliminated because even the detours around normally difficult areas weren't passable. Those routes which normally go through the area are the 1A New Kensington, 91A Butler Street, 1D Mt. Royal Boulevard and 1F Millvale.

The 67F Trafford route was also having difficulty getting through because of a mud slide in Pitcairn, all of the routes along McKnight Road were being detoured and experienced at least 15 to 20 minute delays, and the 61C from McKeesport through Homestead to Downtown was delayed because of flooding on Route 837 near the Rankin Bridge.

Mr. Grove asked riders with questions to call the customer service line at 412-442-2000.

The county fire marshal is investigating a fire that extensively damaged a house on Malabar Drive in Plum, but early indications were that the 8 a.m. fire was started by a lightning strike.

Ross police began diverting morning rush-hour traffic on McKnight Road after intense storms sent water cascading across the intersection with Seibert Road, flooding parts of the road and nearby parking lots. A small car sat with water up to its windows, windshield wipers still working.

Roads in Ross and Shaler were inundated in places with pools of water and mud. A tree partially blocked Thompson Run Road just below Seibert.

The morning flood warnings expired by noon for Allegheny, Westmoreland and Indiana counties. But they were soon replaced by flood watches or warnings, in effect through this evening.

The forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of more rain, including thunderstorms, tonight.

Get hour-by-hour weather forecasts at the Weather Page of post-gazette.com


More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.



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