PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Extreme winds, rain and lightning struck the Pittsburgh region Thursday evening.
Tornado warnings were issued for parts of Butler, Greene, Fayette counties and parts of Ohio and West Virginia.
Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Greene, Indiana and Jefferson counties remained under a Severe Thunderstorm Watch much of the night, but that has since expired. Allegheny County is under a Flood Advisory, and Marshall and Monongalia counties in West Virginia are now under a Flash Flood Watch.
The damage across the area is widespread, and the timing couldn’t have been worse.
Powerful storms swept through the area at rush hour, snapping trees like one in Squirrel Hill near Schenley Park. One SUV was damaged and a car was crushed by the impact.
In West Mifflin, a tree narrowly missed a passing vehicle. Crews are spending the night trying to clear the damage from the roads.
Meanwhile, in Downtown Pittsburgh, signs around the Golden Triangle were blown over. The fierce winds and driving rain posed quite a challenge to people leaving work.
KDKA’s Kym Gable Reports:
Along Banksville Road in the city, no power was the problem. Dozens of businesses were left in the dark. Traffic signals were out, too.
Two tourists were alarmed by all the lightning, and then disappointed when their motel was shut down.
“We got to see the great light show on the way in, but didn’t think of the circumstances of a bad storm,” said Reggie Armonas, who drove in from Canada. “All the lights were out, coming across the bridge was chaotic.”
“We couldn’t check in because the power was out,” added Ann Merla, another tourist. “Nothing was working.”
On the other side of town, the focus was on prevention. Rain fell so hard and so fast that it activated the flood gates along Washington Boulevard. It shut that road down too, but it was all for the sake of safety.
Traffic was halted along the Parkway West; at time you could barely see.
KDKA’s Paul Martino Reports:
The skies over Mount Lebanon also darkened. Along Seminole Drive, a huge tree that had stood for decades was ripped from the ground.
“The end of the tree flipped up out of the earth, and the burst continued to drive the tree toward the house,” said Bill Cooper, a neighbor.
The tree just missed a storage shed by inches. But it didn’t cause much damage.
Meantime, in Carrick, the Beavers family was just about to get ready for a summer of fun in their backyard pool, but there was a big change in plans Thursday night when it was destroyed by the storm.
“I was like, holy smoke, my pool’s flipped,” said Melissa Beavers. “I was actually in shock, and I called my husband down and my kids down and they were shocked immediately.”
The storm also caused problems with the 911 system in Allegheny County. The situation has been resolved, but for several hours anyone needing to reach 911 had to dial 412-473-3000 because of issues with the 911 dispatch system.
Meanwhile, Duquesne Light is reporting that 4,400 customers are without power following the storms. They expect to have it completely restored by morning. West Penn Power also reports that 2,000 customers are without power — the majority in Washington and Westmoreland counties.
The extreme winds sent debris flying in parts of the area.
The National Weather Service warned, “flying debris will be dangerous to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be heavily damaged. Expect considerable damage to roofs… windows and vehicles. Extensive tree damage and power outages are likely.”
The Port Authority also had a problem with a power outage near the Dormont junction, all T cars had to use the blue line both inbound and outbound. A transformer was reportedly struck by lightning.
Also at the Dormont Junction, a shelter stop was damaged when lightning hit it and part of its metal roof blew off, but no one was injured. The outbound red line remains closed.
There are numerous reports of downed power lines and trees. A tree toppled over very close to a home on Bartlett Street in Squirrel Hill.
Firefighters were also called to the East Busway outbound on East Liberty Boulevard. There are reports of downed power lines. Riders should expect delays.
Stay with KDKA for the latest coverage.