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Local tornadoes? Nope — just big storm

| Thursday, June 12, 2014, 11:25 a.m.
Photo courtesy of RUTH WOLFE
Rayburn Township resident Ruth Wolfe snapped this photo of a possible funnel cloud forming over the Indian Hills professional complex in Armstrong County on Wednesday evening. National weather officials have determined that a report of a possible tornado in the Saxonburg area could not be substantiated. Story on page A4. Photo taken June 11, 2014. The Alle-Kiski Valley actually received more rainfall Thursday night -- about an inch in some places -- than the more violent storm the night before.

Meteorologists said on Thursday that no tornadoes touched down in the Saxonburg or Kittanning areas, where warnings were in effect on Wednesday evening.

And while Wednesday evening's storm may have seemed dramatic, Thursday night late downpour actually wreaked more havoc in parts of the Alle-Kiski Valley. As much as one inch of rain was measured by the National Weather Service at about 11:15 p.m. and it was still raining.

New Kensington, Lower Burrell, Plum, Upper Burrell and Allegheny Township were particularly hard hit.

Greensburg Road (Route 366) was shut down for a time as a result of flash flooding, a downed tree and power lines. Debris blocked roadways once the water dissipated. A vehicle reportedly went off the road and into a ditch.

Among the locations where flooded basements or roads were reported on Sylvan Drive, Argonne Drive, Greensburg Road, Seventh Street Road, Millers Lane, Milligantown Road and the Route 56 Bypass.

While police and firefighters were scrambling to keep up late Thursday, the tornado warning the previous night turned out to be naught.

“A warning means a tornado has been spotted on radar or a tornado is imminent,” said meteorologist Brad Rehak of the National Weather Service. “But there were no tornadoes in Armstrong or Butler counties on Wednesday — just severe thunderstorms.”Violent storms in low-hanging clouds were reported by residents across Armstrong and Butler counties. None could be classified as a tornado, according to Rehak, because the column of cloud never touched the ground.

A photo taken by a Rayburn Township resident showed what appeared to be a funnel cloud forming near the intersection of Routes 28 and 85 in the township.

“The picture certainly allows for the possibility of a tornado, but considering the bottom of the cloud is obscured by the trees and a building, there's no way to know what is occurring at the ground,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist Tom Green. The NOAA is the national weather agency under which the National Weather Service serves.

Downed trees — some on power lines — were the main damage reported, Armstrong County Public Safety Director Randy Brozenick said.

“Other than that, we really didn't have anything else,” he said.

The National Weather Service sent personnel to the Saxonburg area Thursday afternoon to investigate damage from storms that rolled through the area Wednesday evening, said meteorologist Lee Hendricks.

They were investigating reports of damage from straight-line winds, he said. They came to southeast Butler County after inspecting storm damage in Lisbon, Ohio.

Saxonburg Borough Manager Mary Papik said she was not aware of any property damage or people being hurt in Wednesday's weather. Felled trees knocked out power to most of the borough north of Main Street for several hours, and the firemen's carnival had shut down.

West Penn Power on Thursday was restoring service to customers across Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler and Westmoreland counties. All were expected to have been restored by 8 p.m.

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