PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Folks in some areas were still cleaning up after Wednesday’s flooding when thunderstorms rolled through the area Thursday afternoon, bringing more flooding and damage.
The National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm warnings for much of the Pittsburgh area late in the afternoon, and flash flood warnings were extended until the late hours of the night.
Ideal Wellness and Weight Loss in Ross Township was under water after thunderstorms rolled through the North Hills.
“It’s happened, I think this is about the seventh time in the last couple of years,” building owner Phil Rizzitano said. “There’s a catch basin out here, it’s an overflow from the lake, and it overflows and just pours into the lot. It’s supposed to go into Girty’s Run.”
Paola Hammer jumped into action when she saw water rushing in through the front door, filling the room with six inches of water.
“We got all our scales up and all of our important stuff that we didn’t want to get damaged,” Hammer said, “because we’ve had to purchase them a lot of times before when this has happened.”
In Highland Park, all three gates on Washington Boulevard came down and all of the warning signals worked. It wasn’t the flood sensors that triggered the gates — it was the quick thinking of some Pittsburgh Police Officers.
As the rain was coming down, Pittsburgh Police officers decided it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“We had approximately 5 or 6 police officers here who decided not to wait until the automatic activation and they manually pushed the switch to activate the gates,” said Wendell Hissrich, Director of Pittsburgh Public Safety.
It was around 4:45 p.m. when police made the decision and all three gates were brought down to stop drivers from passing through until the street was cleared of water and debris.
“Normally, the water has to get about 6 inches prior to the sensors being activated,” said Hissrich.
Pittsburgh Public Safety is happy to report everything worked as it should.
“They were tested several weeks ago and they activated fully,” said Hissrich.
According to Hissrich, normally, the water has to reach about six inches before the sensors are activated, but that doesn’t mean people should wait to see the gates.
“If you see standing water anywhere, turn around don’t drown,” said Hissrich.
He was pleased to see people taking that warning seriously on Wednesday.
“Last night, we had a situation on Route 51 where there was flooding and there are no gates there. So people took the advice and turned around before the water would sweep their car away,” said Hissrich.
After the road was cleared of all the debris, the flood gates were lifted at 6 p.m.
Flooding wasn’t the only concern Thursday afternoon.
Farther north in Saxonburg, a convent, St. Elias Retreat, was struck by lightning and caught fire. Fourteen Greek Orthodox nuns who live there had to find another place to stay.
“I heard a big crack that shook us in the building and I heard the sisters yelling, ‘Fire, fire!'” said Abbess Theophano, Mother Superior of the convent.
Firefighters say the lightning strike caused about $80,000 in damage. Crews were able to put the fire out quickly.
In the South Hills, auto shops on Route 51 were still cleaning up after Wednesday’s storms. One business lost 20 cars after flash flooding carried them into Saw Mill Run Creek, and five Mercedes Benz vehicles were destroyed at another business.
Flooding and road closures continued late into Thursday night.
A man was trying to make a turn in his car at Glass Run Road and Baldwin Road in Hays when the current swept him and his car away, but he managed to walk out of his car safely.
“A wave came up and I got caught in the swell, and it picked up my car and threw me over the barrier,” Naveeth Narayanan, of the South Hills, said. “And my car’s stuck over there now. I walked out in about three feet of water, but it’s alright.”
Around 10 p.m., a firefighter rescued a driver who was trapped in a car on Streets Run Road.