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Mon-Yough utilities succumb to big chill

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 3:56 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
The thermometer outside The Daily News building confirmed the severity of the cold gripping McKeesport and most of the nation.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Nick Janosek, towing operator with Lenhart's Service Center in North Huntingdon, charges the batteries in a tow truck to prepare for service calls because of sub-zero temperatures on January 7, 2014.

Utility woes were among headaches in Mon-Yough communities on Tuesday as the mercury lingered below zero.

There was a falling power line in McKeesport, a gas leak in Homestead, a water main break in West Mifflin and a flooded hall in Elizabeth.

“We had about 3-5 feet of water inside our club,” Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Co. Capt. Ken Kirschner said.

The club at 107 Market St. was closed on Tuesday because of a frozen water main. Allegheny County officials said it burst around 2 p.m.

“We lost a whole day's revenue,” Kirschner said. “We've called in a plumber to fix it, but the tiles are being lifted up under the floor.”

Kirschner said his department will make an insurance claim.

At Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, gusts of up to 35 mph combined with temperatures as low as minus-9 degrees to keep the wind-chill index in double-digit negatives. At 2:53 a.m., it was minus-34.

Warming centers are remaining open at the Clairton municipal building and the Steel Valley Salvation Army Worship and Service Center until Wednesday at 4 p.m. Another at the West Mifflin municipal building was to close at 9 a.m.

“Although the centers are listed based on the municipality in which they are located, anyone can utilize the center,” county spokeswoman Amie Downs said. Other centers were at the Palisades in McKeesport and at Munhall's four fire halls.

East Allegheny area emergency management coordinators agreed that it is better for residents to stay home.

“It's safer for people to stay inside than to go to centers,” East McKeesport coordinator Stacy Mays said.

He stressed that the exception would be if there were a power failure, as occurred late on Monday in McKeesport.

“There was a wire down (along the 2500 block of) Versailles Avenue caused by a tree,” Duquesne Light spokesman Joey Vallarian said. “Customers were out for an hour and nine minutes.”

City emergency management coordinator Bill Miller said the outage reached roughly from Packer to Grover streets into Crawford Village and the Grandview area.

“A combination of cold temperatures and wind likely knocked down the lines,” Miller said. “Duquesne Light crews restored power by Tuesday at 1:15 a.m. No one needed evacuated.”

Residents of an apartment building along the 200 block of E. Ninth Avenue in Homestead were taken to the nearby fire hall because of a gas leak on Tuesday at 3:52 p.m. in a third-floor apartment.

“It was a small leak,” fire Chief James Barca said. “We were right across the street and could offer a shelter.”

Equitable crews shut off the gas, which may have leaked from a faulty appliance.

A water main burst on Tuesday morning along Bettis Road in West Mifflin.

“We had a break on a 6-inch main that left approximately 25 customers without service,” Pennsylvania American Water spokesman Gary Lobaugh said.

Service was restored by noon but the road was closed until utility crews filled in a crater formed by the break and county crews salted and removed the ice.

Despite the cold, it was not an unusual day for Pennsylvania American Water.

“We've had six breaks in Allegheny County ... which is a typical day for a service area that includes 1,900 miles of main,” Lobaugh said.

The cold had first responders and emergency rooms on alert, but at UPMC McKeesport officials said there were no weather-related admissions as of late Tuesday.

Most area youngsters have another day of altered school schedules. Some districts first announced two-hour delays for Wednesday but by Tuesday evening a growing number of schools had canceled classes for a second day.

The combination of a frozen pipe at West Mifflin Area High School and fuel line issues for Pennsylvania Coach Lines led to Wednesday's classes being canceled, Superintendent Daniel Castagna said.

The bitter cold affected garbage collection. On Tuesday, Waste Management canceled most residential and some commercial collections.

For the rest of the week, pick-up dates will be one day behind with Friday routes being handled on Saturday.

“We realize this is an inconvenience to our customers, and we would like to thank them for their continued cooperation,” said Waste Management spokeswoman Erika Deyarmin.

“With below-zero temperatures to start the day, and even colder wind chills, it was in the best interest of our employees to keep them inside and off the road.”

Waste Management customers can go online to to see if their service is affected.

White Oak announced a similar delay for garbage collection provided by Republic Services.

Staff Writers Michael DiVittorio and Tim Karan 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

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