Weather Experts, Emergency Officials Assess Storm Damage
HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Officials with the National Weather Service are touring parts of Westmoreland County today after storms moved through the area Wednesday, leaving behind damage and destruction.
The storms brought heavy rain, hail, high winds and funnel cloud sightings to the area.
KDKA’s John Shumway reports that a National Weather Service official has said that it’s not a question of whether a tornado touched down, rather a question of how strong it was.
Westmoreland County public safety officials say many homes were damaged and about 30 homes were destroyed in the aftermath of the severe weather.
“County-wide, currently, we’re estimating about 90 homes that have been affected,” said Dan Stevens, of Westmoreland County Emergency Management. “Out of that 90 homes, it appears that we have somewhere in the area of about 30 homes that have been destroyed, totally uninhabitable. People are going to have to either relocate or rebuild on the site where their homes are located.”
In addition to National Weather Service officials, Stevens says Pennsylvania Emergency Management will also be evaluating the damage.
“The first thing, we’ll be meeting with the National Weather Service and taking them out to see and determine if we indeed had a tornado and what level of tornado it is,” said Stevens. “Then, with the assistance of Pennsylvania Emergency Management, we’ll be going around and doing damage assessment in the affected areas to find out the extent of damage and how many homes actually are destroyed.”
The National Weather Service officials are determining where tornado and straightline wind damage occurred and will assign an Enhanced Fujita Scale rating to what took place.
Much of the destruction was reported in the area of Hempfield Township, including at an elementary school and high school, in the Fort Allen section of the community and the area of Monkey Wrench Road near the Turnpike.
As for the people cleaning up, KDKA’s Dennis Bowman says they can expect the morning flurries to give way to some breaks of afternoon sun. It will be breezy and brisk with NW winds up to 25 miles per hour. The actual high will be 37 degrees, but wind chills will hover near 20.
Tonight, it will be partly cloudy and cold with a low of 18. The weather should be fairly settled, but chilly through early next week.
Meanwhile, only minor injuries were reported. One woman was cut on her nose by some flying glass.
Also, state police were patrolling the damaged areas to control any possible looting.
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