Cleanup continues after flooding, high winds

Peters Twp. fourth to declare disaster emergency; roof blown from fairgrounds swine barn

July 11, 2013
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Sierra Yates / For the Observer-Reporter
High winds Wednesday tore the roof off the swine barn at Washington County Fairgrounds. Order a Print
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Sierra Yates / For the Observer-Reporter
A piece of roofing that was torn off the pig barn by high winds Wednesday is lodged in trees at Washington County Fairgrounds. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Many trees, like this one on Donnan Avenue in Washington, were knocked over during Wednesday’s storms. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
During Wednesday’s storms, the Tylerdale Village sign was knocked over at Jefferson and Wylie avenues in Washington. Order a Print
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Barbara Miller / Observer-Reporter
Washington County Emergency Management Director Jeff Yates checks his “knowledge center” board that shows Peters Township’s disaster declaration at 10:33 a.m. Thursday. Order a Print

As if a day of flooding wasn’t enough for residents, a cold front Wednesday night hurled wind at Washington County, ripping the roof from the swine barn at the fairgrounds in Arden and twisting part of it around a tree.

Workers wrangling buses for the upcoming school bus demolition derby saw the sky blacken and a funnel cloud “ripping (the barn roof) off sheet by sheet and wrapping it around a tree on Arden Road,” said Debbie Stephenson, general manager of the Washington County Fairgrounds and Expo Center.

Parts of the hilltop barn also were strewn onto the hillside field used as parking during fair week, said Jeff Yates, Washington County emergency management director. Stephenson said debris also was removed from the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum tracks adjacent to the fairgrounds.

Stephenson was preparing to have an insurance adjuster evaluate the damage, and she hopes to have the barn, which houses 60 swine, ready by Aug. 10 for the Washington County Fair.

Stephenson said she had not talked with the National Weather Service about the funnel cloud, which she said was “in and out very quickly” about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

“It just came down and hit. Only one building was damaged and nobody was injured,” she said.

Nearby buildings appeared to be untouched.

The high winds Wednesday night also caused power outages throughout Washington and Greene counties. Rob Lombardo, area manager for West Penn Power, said there were 4,600 residences in Washington County without power as of 5 p.m. Thursday, while 63 homes in Greene County were out. He said some residences wouldn’t have their electricity restored until as late as this evening.

Lombardo said it was important for residents to call their energy supplier if they noticed power being restored to neighbors while their homes remained dark.

Meanwhile, Peters Township, where students had to be evacuated Wednesday morning from a learning center on Route 19 near Upper St. Clair, issued a emergency disaster declaration Thursday, becoming the fourth community in the county to do so.

Children also had to be evacuated from Kristy’s Kiddy Care Learning Center in McDonald during the storm. About 10 children had to be relocated to the Heritage Library as 2 to 3 inches of water flooded into the day care center Wednesday morning.

Kristy Fuller, owner of Kristy’s Kiddie Care, said Thursday that about 18 children were evacuated from the child center to the library. Fuller she her building did not have flood insurance and she expected to pay $5,000 restoring the space. Crews were working on the cleanup Thursday and she hoped to have the space reopened Monday.

“We tried to seal up the doors with tile and whatever we had around,” said Mark Fuller, Kristy’s husband and co-owner of the children’s center. “It just came through the wall. There was no stopping it.”

Bob Amrhein, McDonald emergency management coordinator, said the borough fire department responded to between 65 and 70 storm-related calls, including five rescues. There were no injuries.

Although emergency personnel worked feverishly to prepare for a second round of storms that rolled through Wednesday evening, Amrhein said morning rains caused almost all of the damage.

“Actually, it was a blessing,” Amrhein said. “The second storm was a pup compared to the first.”

Borough officials said it was too early to put a dollar amount of damages caused by the floodwaters, but most of the businesses at the shopping plaza adjacent to the municipal park were affected. Heritage Park, First Commonwealth Bank and Dollar General remained closed Thursday.

Robinson Township and Midway and McDonald boroughs also declared emergencies Wednesday. Yates called this “a financial tool for them that allows them to move a lot more quickly to get things done.”

Most of the residents living on Herron Road in Midway were also affected by flooding.

“We’re still in awe about it really,” Kathy Spencer said as her and her husband attempted to haul waterlogged materials from their residence on Herron Road. “I just thank God everyone is safe. There were so many people that were less fortunate.

Although Spencer lost most of the items stored in her basement, she had an optimistic outlook.

“At the end there was a double rainbow,” Spencer said. “That makes you feel at peace. No matter what the storm did, that made me happy.”

More than 2 1/2 inches of rain fell Wednesday morning in Peters Township, where at Colonial Modern Furniture, 2810 Washington Road, employees spent Thursday morning throwing soggy carpet samples in the back of a truck while the store remained closed.

Flooding along five-lane Route 19 was the result of an overflowing small stream at the rear of the businesses, said Ed Zuk, township planning director. At some locations, the stream that flows into Brush Run Creek travels through a 10-inch pipe. With Wednesday’s heavy rain, the pipe was incapable of letting the water flow through, said Mark Zemaitis, the township’s director of engineering. Some of the worst damage, in addition to Washington Road, was to homes and businesses on Valley Brook Road where Brush Run Creek runs parallel.

Yates sent an email to all municipalities in the county asking them to enumerate uninsured damages to homes, businesses and infrastructure. He plans to forward that to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which will in turn send it to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The estimates are due Monday, but he wasn’t holding out much hope for a federal disaster declaration.

One possibility was that the federal government would look at all of the uninsured damage in Western Pennsylvania as a unit, which could increase the region’s chance for aid.

One organization was not asking for government aid but rather, donations from the wallets of residents of Washington and Greene counties.

Rain in Washington was not as severe in northern parts of the county, but bucket brigades were the order of the day at the City Mission, where Bill Naumoff, marketing manager, was issuing an appeal for “$50,000 and we need it as soon as possible.”

The chapel, which houses 56 residents, a medical clinic, cafeteria and kitchen feeding both residents and nonresidents, were dripping wet Wednesday, when it became apparent that temporary patches weren’t adequate.

Naumoff asked those wishing to aid the mission to call 724-222-8530 or visit

Staff writers Aaron Kendeall and Terri T. Johnson contributed to this story.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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