Storm, high wind tear through Valley

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Two historic trees in front of Marie LaMendola's house were standing when her late husband, Frank, was born there in 1918, she said.

But the force of 60 mph winds on Friday morning ripped one of the trees out at the roots at her Castner Avenue home in Donora. As it fell, it crushed a carport and slammed into a second-floor window.

“When that hit the house, it shook – and then I shook,” LaMendola said.

“It was horrific, the most frightening sound you've ever heard,” said Greg Cominsky, LaMendola's caretaker.

“The wind whipped through the yard and hit that tree and missed the other.”

Cominsky said he was thankful no one was injured, adding it is fortunate that the tree did not hit the window in LaMendola's bedroom.

The incident occurred around 3:45 a.m. at the onset of the storm that swept through the area from 3:30 through 6 a.m., producing wind as high as 60 mph and heavy rain, according to the National Weather Service.

LaMendola said her telephone service was interrupted, but her electrical power was not affected. But some of her neighbors were without power.

At one point early Friday, 26,000 homes were without power.

According to West Penn Power, crews were working to restore power to nearly 9,200 customers systemwide.

As of Friday evening, 9,170 customers were still without power. That included 2,909 in Washington County, 2,495 in Westmoreland County, 2,889 in Fayette County and 71 in Allegheny County.

As of Friday evening, the utility company was reporting the following number of homes, by community, were still without power: Allenport, 46; Belle Vernon, 14; Bentleyville, 68; Brownsville, 24; California, 101; Centerville, 38; Cokeburg, 305; Donora, 14; Fallowfield Township, 45; Long Branch, 10; Monessen, eight; Nottingham Township, 17; Perry Township, 38; Perryopolis, five; Redstone Township, 205; Roscoe, 29; Rostraver Township, 76; Smithton, 12; Sutersville, 24; Union Township, 41; Washington Township, 39; and West Newton, six.

During the day Friday, outages were also reported in Carroll Township, Charleroi, Coal Center, Elco, Finleyville, Forward Township, Speers and West Brownsville.

Donora Fire Chief Patsy Vince said firefighters removed five downed trees in a two-block area of the borough.

In addition to LaMendola's house, a downed tree landed on a van at the intersection of Fifth Street and Hickory Drive. Another fell on a garage at the intersection of Fifth Street and Sycamore Drive. Trees fell across the road in the 400 block of Fifth Street and at the intersection of Sixth and Hill streets.

The storm damaged the cross on the steeple at St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church on Murray Avenue in Donora.

The Rev. Stephen Wahal, pastor, said a roofer assessing the damage said the copper cross was likely built around a wooden cross, which snapped in the high winds.

The cross is lying on its side, but is still attached to the steeple.

In addition, Wahal said a “no parking” sign in the parking lot was blown over in the storm, despite being held up by a 4-foot by 4-foot post set in cement.

“It must have been a powerful storm,” Wahal said.

In Monessen, the storm knocked out a transformer on Monessen Boulevard, Municipal Fire Chief Delmar Hepple said.

Hepple said a few downed trees fell across utility wires.

A large tree mangled electric wires on Hoover Street.

Another fell at the intersection of Leeds and Summit avenues. Two trees landed along Grand Boulevard by Service Lane. Two new pear trees planted near the War Memorial in City Park were ripped out, Hepple said.

“I heard those three jolts of electricity and knew it was bad,” Hepple said.

A 75-foot tree on Sandbank Road in Washington Township fell.

Fallowfield Township Fire Chief Anthony Fleming said his department dealt with countless trees that fell onto streets and downed utility wires. No homes or vehicles were struck.

“It was pretty widespread,” said Fleming, whose house was still without electrical service late Friday.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

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