Rain revisits water-weary Mon-Yough communities
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 4:56 a.m.
A fast-moving storm brought fires, flooding and other problems on Tuesday afternoon.
In McKeesport, lightning struck the first floor of a house along the 3500 block of Orchard Street, igniting a blaze that trapped two people.
“An 8-year-old boy and his grandfather were on the second floor of the house,” city Deputy Fire Chief Vince Wassel said.
They climbed out to the roof and the boy was lowered to neighbors. The grandfather was rescued by a ladder crew.
“They were taken to UPMC McKeesport for evaluation,” Wassel said. Neither was seriously hurt.
City fire crews needed only 15 minutes to contain the blaze to the kitchen area. Wassel said another man was able to escape out the front door but two of three dogs in the house perished.
Numerous lightning strikes to homes, utility poles and other landmarks in McKeesport, Duquesne, Clairton and North Huntingdon Township were reported.
In North Versailles Township, firefighters went to an abandoned house struck by lightning along the 600 block of Overhill Drive. Minor damage was reported.
Four people were trapped briefly but escaped without injury when an elevator was halted by a power failure in the Mansfield Building on the campus of UPMC McKeesport.
“Everything is back to normal,” UPMC spokesman Rick Pietzak said.
There were many reports of flooded roads and basements as the storm rolled through starting around 3:45 p.m.
The National Weather Service said 0.83 inches of rain fell in just over an hour at Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, where the heat index dropped from 96 at 2:53 p.m. to 78 one hour later.
Duquesne Light customers in Clairton, Versailles, West Mifflin and White Oak were among 8,250 who lost service during the storm.
“Crews are out in full force making repairs while operators in the company's control center are using automated switching solutions to bring power back to affected customers,” Duquesne Light spokesman Joey Vallarian said in a 5 p.m. update.
More than half had their service back by 9:30 p.m., though there were 50 customers apiece in West Mifflin and White Oak who were without power. Duquesne Light said it expected complete restoration overnight.
West Penn Power had outages from Monongahela to Delmont and from Bethel Park to the Scott Haven area in Sewickley Township, including Jefferson Hills, West Elizabeth, Elizabeth, and the Buena Vista area in Elizabeth Township.
Many had been restored by 6 p.m.
In McKeesport, flooding and a landslide closed a portion of Eden Park Boulevard. Jenn Prescott, a bartender at Mellon's Pub, said tires and other debris covered the road.
“The whole hillside must have come down,” Prescott said.
Wassel said a fallen tree blocked the road.
Other problems included flooding along Myer Boulevard and Pirl Street at E. Fifth Avenue. A wire went down along Beaver Avenue at Freemont Street and a transformer caught fire along Maple Street.
In Glassport, manhole covers popped off on Ohio Street. Flooding was reported along the 900 block of Vermont Avenue. Residents said they sustained major flooding in last Wednesday's storms, as well.
Flooding shut portions of Liberty Way in Port Vue, Liberty and Lincoln, and part of Washington Boulevard in Port Vue. Portions of Route 51 were flooded for a time in Pleasant Hills.
Multiple trees were downed along Walnut Street in Versailles, where flooding was reported between Olympia Shopping Center and the Boston Bridge.
White Oak's Rainbow Volunteer Fire Co. helped Versailles firefighters pump basements. White Oak's other volunteer firefighters assisted in dealing with flooded basements in McKeesport.
Allegheny County dispatchers went into emergency mode from when the storm arrived until 6:18 p.m.
Staff Writers Aaron Aupperlee, Michael DiVittorio and Tom Fontaine contributed to this story. Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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