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Mon Valley mobilizes to meet storm's onslaught

| Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, 4:42 a.m.

A forecast of severe, potentially life-threatening weather is no laughing matter, but Pat Bluett managed to inject some humor into an email about postponements of Duquesne-West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club's Halloween activities.

“Does anyone know where the ark is docked?” Bluett, the club's assistant executive director, asked.

There was no ark parked amid construction vehicles idled by the approach of Hurrican Sandy at most road-project work sites in Western Pennsylvania.

“Most if not all work is being canceled,” PennDOT District 11 spokesman James Struzzi said.

That includes railroad crossing work that was to begin Monday on Streets Run Road in Baldwin and Route 837 in Dravosburg.

In advance of Sandy's landing Monday in New Jersey, the National Weather Service said close to an inch of rain had fallen at Allegheny County Airport.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for the Youghiogheny and Monongahela rivers. As of Monday at noon, the Yough was at 3.5 feet at Sutersville, while the Mon was at 10.3 feet at Elizabeth.

Flood stage in both locations is 20 feet.

Clairton Mayor Rich Lattanzi issued a declaration of disaster, directing city officials “to act as necessary to meet the current exigencies of this emergency.”

That could mean hiring temporary workers, renting equipment, purchasing supplies or “entering into such contracts and agreements for the performance of public works and public safety functions as may be required.”

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald issued a declaration at the recommendation of county Emergency Services Chief Alvin Henderson, a Jefferson Hills resident. A spokeswoman for Fitzgerald said normal bid and contract procedures are waived for the duration of the declaration.

East Allegheny schools are closed Tuesday and scheduled for a two-hour delay Wednesday. Evening activities are canceled through Thursday.

Duquesne, McKeesport Area, Propel Homestead, Steel Valley and West Mifflin Area schools are closed. Duquesne after-school programs are canceled through Wednesday.

Community College of Allegheny County and Long Run Children's Learning Center called off classes.

At press time, Clairton, Elizabeth Forward, Norwin and West Jefferson Hills schools and Queen of Angels in North Huntingdon Township were scheduled to open Tuesday on two-hour delays.

East Allegheny's Logan Middle School may be used as a shelter, according to a strategic worked out at a meeting in North Versailles Township.

“We laid out a game plan,” township board president George Thompson said of a meeting of officials from the township, Wall, Wilmerding and East McKeesport.

North Versailles municipal building may serve as a command center, Thompson said.

Keeping Route 30 clear of debris will be a top priority.

“All the communities are working together,” township road commissioner Sam Juliano said.

East McKeesport emergency management coordinator Stacy L. Mays emailed advice to borough residents who receive Nixle alerts, including the suggestion that they have a three-day supply of food and water should the power go out.

“Please remember your pets,” Mays said. “It is recommended that you have copies of your utility bills and any medications that you may have, should an evacuation be ordered.”

Red Cross of Western Pennsylvania suggested having flashlights, a battery-operated radio and a first aid kit.

Henderson's list includes a non-electric can opener, cash, credit cards and sturdy shoes.

“Do not use generators in a closed garage or other unventilated area that is attached to your home,” Henderson urged. “Don't drive through standing water in case of flooding — turn around and go the other way. Obviously, we would also encourage residents to check on their friends, family and neighbors to make sure that they're doing OK during the next few days.”

Allegheny County's Swiftwater/Flood Response Team mobilized three teams of rescuers, inflatable boats and rescue equipment for deployment in Eastern Pennsylvania.

“We are on our way out to Harrisburg,” said team deputy coordinator Chuck Margliotti, a McKeesport deputy fire chief.

Sixteen state-certified rescuers were sent from McKeesport, Glassport, Elizabeth and other communities.

“We still have sufficient resources to cover Allegheny County as needed,” said team coordinator George McBriar, who also is Blawnox fire chief.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army are involved in relief efforts.

A Red Cross spokeswoman said the agency is gathering and organizing volunteers, packing relief supplies, prepping four emergency response vehicles and designating workers to be on-call around the clock. The Salvation Army said its equipment and personnel are on standby from the Carolinas to Maine.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or Staff writers Michael DiVittorio, Stacy Lee, Eric Slagle, Mary Ann Thomas and Jennifer R. Vertullo and Trib Total Media news exchange partner WPXI-11 contributed to this story.

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