Thunderstorms across Southwestern Pennsylvania this afternoon knocked out power to thousands in several counties.
Duquesne Light reported on its Twitter account that about 18,000 customers in the Pittsburgh area were without power just before 3 p.m.
West Penn and Penn Power reported close to 6,900 customers without power in Westmoreland County, more than 2,500 outages in Allegheny and another 692 in Butler.
Pittsburgh department of public works crews were working to remove several trees down around the city, including one that blocked traffic at Bigelow Boulevard and Herron Avenue, Kevin Quigley, the department's assistant director, said.
Fire and hazardous materials crews responded to a lightning strike in Derry, Westmoreland County, that ignited a holding tank next to a natural gas well, said Dan Stevens, public safety spokes person for the county.
Crews said People's Natural Gas representatives arrived at the scene along Route 982.
Volunteer firemen from Derry and Blairsville were unable to put the fire out with hoses and were awaiting a truck with foam designed to tamp down the flames, which rose about ten feet in the air.
A National Weather Service severe thunderstorm watch continues until 9 p.m. for portions of Allegheny, Beaver, Westmoreland, Fayette and Washington counties as well as other surrounding areas.
The storm should bring cooler weather to the Pittsburgh area. The weather service is predicting tomorrow's high to be 83 degrees.
An operator at Beaver County emergency services said that power lines reported down in and around Midland, Shippingport and Hanover have been repaired by 4 p.m.
The sudden downpour from a pop-up storm over Downtown Pittsburgh this afternoon sent thousands in the lunchtime crowd scurrying for any available shelter.
At the CVS pharmacy on Forbes Avenue, a clerk scrambled to restock a shelf that was quickly stripped bare of its supply of umbrellas. She gave up and just started handing them straight out of the shipping boxes to dozens of waiting customers.
Marcus Schwarz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1964. Jon Schmitz and Erich Schwartzel contributed. First Published July 18, 2012 5:15 PM