Storm disrupts phones, electricity

January 30, 2013
A brief storm with high winds that whipped through Washington County this morning took down this large tree, which in turn brought power lines down onto vehicles on Maple Avenue in Washington. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A fast-moving storm hit the area Wednesday morning, knocking down trees and cutting power for thousands of customers in Washington County.

With winds of up to 45 mph, National Weather Service meteorologist Lee Hendricks said the system came through in advance of a cold front that will cause temperatures to dip back into the 20s today.

“It’s reminding us that it’s still winter,” he said.

According to Hendricks, the storm system was mostly a “wind event” that affected not only Washington County but portions of Fayette and Westmoreland counties as well.

At Arnold Palmer Airport in Latrobe, a helicopter was overturned by a gust that was recorded at 58 mph, he stated.

The brief storm system was essentially over by about 12:30 p.m., at which time West Penn Power reported approximately 3,000 customers without power in Washington County.

Utility poles were snapped by the high winds in Independence Township, but Michael Provenzano, township equipment manager, said he really didn’t notice the storm hit.

“It rained hard for about 10 minutes,” he said. “Now, we’re left picking up branches.”

Peters Township High School and Pleasant Valley Elementary were left without power from the storm when it hit the western portion of the county. Afternoon kindergarten at the elementary school was cancelled and students had an early dismissal at 2:10 p.m., said Shelly Belcher, district spokeswoman. Power was also out at the high school, with those students being released about an hour earlier than normal.

In other areas of the township, there were reports of sporadic outages. The main problem in the township was disruption to telephone service.

The township library, municipal building, police station and a majority of the school district buildings were without phone service for several hours. In Washington, electrical service was interrupted at the county office building and at downtown businesses, while a large tree was uprooted on Maple Avenue.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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