Pittsburgh region may miss full fury of Hurricane Sandy

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For now at least -- although it could change -- it doesn't appear that Western Pennsylvania will incur the direct wrath that the merging of Hurricane Sandy and other winter weather systems portends for a wide swath of the East Coast.

That's not to say the area won't be affected by what's being called a monster storm. Various models being studied by the National Weather Service indicate this area will receive from 2 to 4 1/2 inches of rain from Sunday night through Wednesday. The most significant downpours will occur in eastern Westmoreland and Fayette counties and in the ridges of northern West Virginia, said meteorologist Lee Hendricks of the National Weather Service in Moon.

There could be some snow in the early morning hours depending upon the temperature, he said, but there likely won't be any accumulation, except possibly on the ridges in higher elevations.

Winds are forecast to gust to 25 mph Sunday night, to 35 mph Monday and possibly higher on Tuesday.

That's a far cry from the prediction of what is likely to occur after Sandy's landfall sometime Tuesday near the Delaware coast and its slamming into two other major weather systems, creating a hybrid super storm. The result is expected to be massive precipitation and very high winds, resulting in widespread flooding, major power outages, large-scale property destruction and life-threatening situations.

In the predicted path of the storm's massive power are regions to our east beginning in the Susquehanna River Basin and stretching from North Carolina to New England. Gov. Tom Corbett has already declared a disaster emergency for Pennsylvania and activated the state Emergency Operations Center.

"Generally east of the Continental Divide will be the hardest hit areas. This is a significant storm by any measure. It's going to cause widespread disruption to power and transportation, there will be flooding inland and coastal flooding," Mr. Hendricks said.

But in Western Pennsylvania, "widespread and occasional moderate to heavy rainfall and gusting winds will be our primary issues with scattered power outages as well as poor drainage causing some flooding in urban areas and some stream flooding."

The rain and wind aren't expected to produce widespread flooding. What's working in the region's favor is that the ground is relatively dry, meaning it will soak up much of the precipitation, the rivers are at relatively low levels and the heavy rain is forecast to occur over an extended period. However, the potential for river flooding will have to be monitored later next week.

There could be isolated flooding from creeks and in urban areas because of poor drainage and some power outages, Mr. Hendricks said. Ground saturated by the downpours will make trees vulnerable to falling over from the gusting winds onto power lines, causing power outages. Urban flooding could occur as leaves already on the ground and those that will be blown down by the storms will clog storm drains.

Mr. Hendricks recommended that the region's residents prepare as they would for any major storm -- stockpiling their homes with flashlights, batteries, blankets, water and food for three days and making sure their vehicles are gassed up in case they need to evacuate.

The following is the National Weather Service forecast for the region:

Sunday: Rain. High near 48. North wind around 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Sunday night: Rain. Low around 40. North wind around 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90 percent. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Monday: Rain. High near 43. Breezy, with a northwest wind 16 to 21 mph, with gusts as high as 32 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90 percent. New precipitation amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.

Monday night: Rain. Low around 39. Windy. Chance of precipitation is 90 percent. New precipitation amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.

Tuesday: Rain. High near 41. Windy. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent.

Tuesday night: Rain and snow showers. Low around 34. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent.

Wednesday: A chance of rain and snow showers. Cloudy, with a high near 38. Chance of precipitation is 50 percent.

Wednesday night: A chance of rain and snow showers. Cloudy, with a low around 34. Chance of precipitation is 50 percent.

Thursday: A chance of rain and snow showers. Cloudy, with a high near 42. Chance of precipitation is 40 percent.

Thursday night: A chance of showers. Cloudy, with a low around 34. Chance of precipitation is 40 percent.

Friday: A chance of showers. Cloudy, with a high near 42. Chance of precipitation is 30 percent.

weather - region

Michael A. Fuoco: mfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1968.


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