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Butler Co. Church Damaged During Severe Storms

(Photo Credit: KDKA/Ralph Iannotti)

(Photo Credit: KDKA/Ralph Iannotti)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It was an active Wednesday evening on radar as severe storms passed through the region, prompting a tornado watch for much of the area and leaving behind lots of damage in its wake.

A Flood Warning is in effect for urban areas and small streams in Bedford, Blair, Somerset and Cambria counties through 1:30 a.m.

“There’s going to be more showers crossing in the next couple of hours, and there’ll be more showers and a few thunderstorms around throughout the day [Thursday], as well,” said KDKA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Verszyla. “I think the greatest threat as we head through the day will be for heavy downpours given the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.”

There were plenty of residents left without power. At 10:45 p.m., Duquesne Light said they still had about 600 customers in the dark. They expect to have service restored by 8 a.m. Thursday.

Just before 7 p.m. in western Armstrong County and southeastern Butler County, a Tornado Warning had residents on high alert. The warning has since been allowed to expire, but now there’s downed trees, power lines and other structural damage to buildings.

In Saxonburg, a large pine tree was apparently struck by lightning and came crashing down, narrowly missing Norman Lang’s home on Water Street. The tree also caused a power failure in the neighborhood.

“We were standing out on the back porch, me and my brother, and we heard this big bang and we said it had to be close,” said Lang.

In the city of Butler, a lightning bolt hit the dome of the Grace @ Calvary Lutheran Church on East Diamond Street, across the square from the Butler County Courthouse.

The roof of the historic church now has significant damage.

The lightning struck the dome, damaging the roof and sending pieces of the stone façade tumbling to the sidewalk below.

Bob Fleeger, the president of the church council, told KDKA-TV News there was no fire and no one was hurt.

“It hit that section right there between those two windows, and then the stone fell and put the hole in the roof. No damage inside,” said Fleeger.

A youth group was meeting inside the church when the storm rolled through, but they made their way to the lowest level of the building to ride out the storm.

Fleeger said the church was insured.

“Those things happen. I mean, we have a lightning rod and it just didn’t hit there,” Fleeger added.

Meanwhile, in Westmoreland County, lightning hit a home in North Huntingdon, starting a fire on the roof.

The family who lives there was not at home, but their dog was inside, and firefighters went in and rescued the pet before smoke got to the bottom floors.

Neighbor Jennifer Miele says she heard the loud crack of thunder and wondered if her home had been hit. Soon she saw smoke and flames coming from the neighbor’s.

“We heard this loud crack and bang, and what’s funny is, we checked our own house, we thought maybe something was wrong, and right across the street we ended up seeing the fire,” said Miele.

Chief George Workman, from the Strawpump Volunteer Fire Department, says the house has smoke and water damage.

He says no one fighting the flames was injured.

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