NWS: Strong Storms Cause Downbursts, Prompt Tornado Warning

Downed Tree, Lightning Strike Impacts Rush Hour Outbound T Service

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A round of strong afternoon storms brought down trees and powerlines across the region Tuesday.

They prompted a Tornado Warning for parts of Fayette and Greene counties here in Pennsylvania, as well as Monongalia County in West Virginia. That warning as since expired.

The National Weather Service also confirmed a downburst came through McDonald around 1:30 p.m.

An afternoon of numerous thunderstorm warnings gave way to a Flood Advisory for Allegheny County in the evening hours, but that also expired at 7:30 p.m.

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KDKA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Verszyla said while the storms brought down the temperatures, dew points still remain high. However, that’s all about to change.

“As drier air sweeps in later tonight and the showers and thunderstorms end, we will see cooler, drier conditions, more comfortable conditions taking shape starting [Wednesday], and really through the end of the week,” he said.

The Borough of McDonald in northern Washington County may have seen the worst of the weather. According to the NWS, numerous trees were uprooted by straight-line winds, caused by a downburst, created when strong thunderstorms moved through. When the wind shear associated with the so-called “downburst” hits the ground, the air is then forced to fan out in all directions.

Crews quickly went to work removing the trees so Laurel Hill Road could reopen.

The storm also knocked out power. West Penn Power officials estimated at least 500 customers in the area were left in the dark because of the storm.

KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti Reports —

Homeowner Al Darnley told KDKA-TV’s Ralph Iannotti, “You could hear the thunder and lightning. I looked out the kitchen window and rain was just going sideways, I never seen anything like that in my life. Then, I heard trees starting to snap, just snap, snap, snap. It was pretty terrifying.”

Darnley has lived in McDonald his entire life. This storm, he said, was different than past thunderstorms.

“Never in my life have I ever, ever seen anything that bad come through this area,” he said.

The NWS says a downburst swept through Westmoreland County as well. Officials with the NWS say downbursts are very common in the summertime, but folks that witnessed Tuesday’s storms say they’ve never seen anything like it.

“We were having lunch behind the house when all of a sudden it started hailing, the wind was blowing. I just never saw anything like it,” Pam Seighman said.

Seighman is one of the owners of Grandview Cemetery in Murrysville. A flagpole at the cemetery was knocked over by strong winds.

KDKA’s Amy Wadas Reports —

A baseball field in Salem Township didn’t stand a chance against Mother Nature.

“It ripped off the dugout behind me. It completely destroyed the other dugout. There’s a fence post bent over,” said Sean Susick.

Susick is the president of the Delmont Area Athletic Association and said the damage will set back the fall baseball season for the kids.

Trees tumbled over onto East Pittsburgh Street. Colin Bashline had to run his generator after power got knocked out.

“We just heard the storm coming. It just started to get worse and worse, and at some point the trees started to bow to the side, so kinda went downstairs and waited it out,” Bashline said.

Around 1,800 West Penn Power customers were still without power around 11 p.m.

Back in Allegheny County, the South Hills was also hit hard with damage. They saw flash flooding, and high winds brought down trees and power lines.

Hanna Diegeomann came home from Target to find the old maple tree down in her front yard in Mount Lebanon. It damaged her front porch and ripped some siding from her home.

KDKA’s John Shumway Reports —

The caution tape around her yard was put there by firefighters because the tree brought down the power line to her house.

“Luckily, my car wasn’t there. Looks like something fell back there, too,” said Diegeomann.

Indeed, part of the tree in her back yard came down, too, barely missing the garage. In the cemetery behind her home and in another yard up the street, huge old trees were no match for the wind.

One of the trees that fell nearby landed on the outbound Red Line T tracks. It was quickly cleared, but still caused delays. Inbound and outbound service ran about 25-30 minutes behind schedule for the evening rush hour.

Meanwhile, a lightning strike on the Blue Line near South Bank also caused significant delays of 45 minutes during rush hour.

For the latest on the light rail weather delays, visit the Port Authority’s website at this link.

Elsewhere, trees were reported down in various other places from Export to Harrison City to Muddy Creek Township. Flash flooding caused problems in the City of Washington.

Also, a home on Mount Washington was struck by lightning. Thankfully, it didn’t cause any major damage.

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