High winds may have contributed to fall

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 1:26 a.m.

A tree split nearly in half and fell on the McKeesport home of Beulah Park United Methodist Church's the Rev. Kathleen Barnhart on Friday morning.

Church secretary Caryl Randolph said she was dog-sitting Barnhart's rottweiler-husky mix, Bear, when she heard a crash around 3:45 a.m. at the house, in the 1500 block of Grandview Avenue.

Barnhart was away on vacation, and no injuries were reported.

“The dog and I just started running 'cause we didn't know what was going on,” Randolph said. “When I discovered what had happened, I just made the necessary calls.”

The tree fell across the front steps, breaking a railing and crushing shrubbery. A few top branches went onto the roof of the two-story structure. The front porch roof absorbed most of the damage, with the tree knocking off shingles and gutters.

Randolph said she told Barnhart what happened.

“Everyone is safe and the pastor is still enjoying her vacation,” Randolph said. “Beulah's a pretty popular church with a large membership, and a lot of the members live right here in the area. You know how word travels, and I didn't want her to hear it from anyone else. I knew she would have been worried about Bear. We have been in communication, and she is well aware that her tree is now on her porch.”

Resident Luann Hill lives across the street from the damaged home. Hill said she did not hear the crash, just the wind.

“The wind must have been around 70 to 80 mph,” Hill said. “I thought my siding was (going to) go.”

The National Weather Service said the storms produced winds of up to 60 mph and heavy rains as they moved through Pittsburgh and surrounding areas on Friday morning.

The fallen tree narrowly missed power lines, and nothing inside the home was reported to be damaged.

Randolph said the church's insurance company, Church Mutual, was contacted and an adjuster will visit the house.

“They were very helpful, very concerned,” Randolph said.

McKeesport police reported a tree down along the 400 block of Marshall Drive sometime early Friday morning. No injuries were reported.

Duquesne Light spokesman Brian Knavish said all of his utility's customers were expected to have power back by Friday evening. About 3,000 customers were without power as of Friday morning. Crews worked around the clock making repairs.

Knavish said the company received reports of 76 downed wires, 25 reports of tree limbs in wires and several reports of downed utility poles.

West Penn Power also had numerous outages. As of Friday evening, a handful of problems remained in Elizabeth, Forward Township, Jefferson Hills and the Westmoreland City section of North Huntingdon Township.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965 or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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