The region braced for 70 mph winds, put "swiftwater" rescue teams on the ready, closed a farmers market and canceled evening events at city parks, and then a tornado watch was issued.
It all turned out, however, to be just a mid-June thunderstorm, but one that took the life of a Beaver County man and injured his fiance and 4-year-old child. Shawn Molter, 35, died from smoke inhalation trying to rescue the family dog after their house in New Brighton was suspected to have been struck by lightning, police said.
But when significant weather events turn out to be less severe than forecast, the public often is left wondering why. Did the media exaggerate the story? Were meteorologists overzealous in their predictions?
In this case, an unusual weather pattern created a perfect storm.
"A lot of people had a lot of opinions on what the evolution on this [storm] system would be," said Lee Hendricks, a 28-year veteran of the National Weather Service. "Unfortunately, in this business, it's not black and white."
The storm followed a northwest jet pattern, which is more common in the winter and can create severe weather when it occurs in the spring or summer. When asked about reports of a potential "derecho" -- an unusually large line of thunderstorms that can create wind damage -- Mr. Hendricks said the media had a hand in spreading that prediction, but "the human mind focuses on what's most severe ... that's a survival instinct."
Mr. Hendricks said a top wind gust of 45 mph was recorded at 4:11 a.m. at Pittsburgh International Airport. Top rainfall amounts were 4.1 inches in Harrison County, Ohio, and 2.45 inches at Pike Island in the northern panhandle of West Virginia.
Locally, 1.8 inches at Montgomery Lock and Dam in Beaver County; 1.57 inches at Butler County Airport; 1.54 inches of rain fell in Shaler; 1.34 inches in North Fayette; and 1.29 inches in Emsworth.
Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute who specializes in broadcast and online journalism, said it is important for media organizations to convey the probability of various weather outcomes.
"There have been plenty of instances over the past few years where we tend to indicate that we know with some certainty that we know something is going to happen when it's not at all certain," he said. "Alarmists don't last long."
Today's weather forecast: mostly cloudy with a chance of light sprinkles. The National Weather Service is predicting a high of 70 degrees.
Alex Zimmerman: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman. Staff writers Molly Born and Jon Schmitz contributed. First Published June 14, 2013 4:00 AM