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Workers chip away at tornado damage in Westmoreland

Mary Pickels
| Tuesday, June 5, 2012, 12:03 a.m.
Pete Pacienza, of Ligonier Township, blows wood chips off his lawn on Monday, June 4, 2012 after a tree fell on his house from the tornado that struck Friday.
Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review
Pete Pacienza, of Ligonier Township, blows wood chips off his lawn on Monday, June 4, 2012 after a tree fell on his house from the tornado that struck Friday. Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review
Chris Shadid, 24, of Johnstown, shovels evergreen branches into a truck on Monday, June 4, 2012 after trees fell in the Antiochian Village Camp from the tornado that struck Friday.
Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review
Chris Shadid, 24, of Johnstown, shovels evergreen branches into a truck on Monday, June 4, 2012 after trees fell in the Antiochian Village Camp from the tornado that struck Friday. Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review
Chris Shadid, 24, of Johnstown, shovels evergreen branches into a wheelbarrow on Monday, June 4, 2012 after trees fell in the Antiochian Village Camp from the tornado that struck Friday.
Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review
Chris Shadid, 24, of Johnstown, shovels evergreen branches into a wheelbarrow on Monday, June 4, 2012 after trees fell in the Antiochian Village Camp from the tornado that struck Friday. Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review
Mick Gray, center, of the Ligonier Township Road Department, feeds wood into chipper shredder on Monday, June 4, 2012 after trees fell in the Oakwood Hills neighborhood from the tornado that struck Friday.
Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review
Mick Gray, center, of the Ligonier Township Road Department, feeds wood into chipper shredder on Monday, June 4, 2012 after trees fell in the Oakwood Hills neighborhood from the tornado that struck Friday. Steph Anderson | Tribune-Review
Tornado debris near a cabin in the Antiochian Village Camp destroyed is pictured Monday, June 4, 2012.
Trib Total Media
Tornado debris near a cabin in the Antiochian Village Camp destroyed is pictured Monday, June 4, 2012.

The Very Rev. Anthony Yazge said Monday he hopes enough of the half-million dollars' worth of tornado damage at the Antiochian Village Camp can be repaired by June 17, when summer camp is scheduled to open.

Eighteen buildings at the Fairfield Township facility were damaged to some degree in the F1 tornado that touched down Friday, including a newly constructed cabin to house 16 campers.

"We were expecting 260 kids, plus 60 staff and 15 volunteers. This would have been a record year," said Yazge, the camp's director.

He estimated damage at between $500,000 and $1 million.

Dan Stevens, spokesman for the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety, said the tornado damaged 75 homes.

"We had three or four businesses with structural damage," Stevens said. "There is no chance of federal or state declaration of emergency. All losses were insured. We did not meet the threshold criteria for the amount of damage for public infrastructure."

Meteorologists from the National Weather Service in Moon classified Friday's storm as an F1 tornado on the Fujita scale of 0-4.

The March 23, 2011, tornado was classified as an F2 and caused an estimated $4.5 million in Sewickley and Hempfield townships.

Stevens said no damage estimate from last week's tornado will be made this time because of the insurance coverage and no emergency declaration.

Last year's tornado caused hail damage to more than 100 vehicles and destroyed the roof at Town & Country Ford along Route 711 in Ligonier Township.

Owner Jane Sapone said Friday's storm left the new cars parked in the front unscathed, but a sign that blew from across the road struck several used cars in the back.

"Three had significant damage. Seventeen have bumps and bruises," she said.

The body shop was full yesterday with cars brought in for storm damage repair, some so severe they had to be towed in, Sapone said.

Stevens said Friday's tornado traveled through a more rural, less densely populated area.

"The hills and valleys of Ligonier Valley probably saved a lot of property damage. ... It had to drop down and raise up, drop down and raise up. ... It skipped around a lot," he said.

That movement likely prevented more ground impact.

In the eastern part of the county, road crews cleared away branches and trees yesterday .

"There is still work to be done. All public roads are passable. There is mostly tree debris on some of the shoulders," said Fairfield Township Supervisor Paul Altimus.

"Damage was not really widespread throughout the township. It was an isolated path of destruction that played hell with everything in its way," he said.

Roadmasters and road crews were working in the hardest-hit areas of Ligonier Township, including Oakwood Hills, Supervisor Keith Whipkey said yesterday.

"We are telling people whatever debris they can get to the edge of the road, we'll pick up," he said.

Contractors and tree removal companies worked yesterday at Antiochian Village Camp, where children ages 9 to 17 come from all over the country and from overseas. Its insurance carrier advised the facility not to accept the many volunteers' offers to help with cleanup, Yazge said.

"We are trying our best to get cleaned up," Yazge said. "There are still a lot of safety issues. We have hundreds of trees down."

The site's conference and retreat center and monastery were undamaged, Yazge said.

"We are very grateful. It could have been a lot worse," he said.

Stevens said the emergency management agency is asking anyone who has photos of the storm or of storm damage to email them to: esf15@co.westmoreland.pa.us.

"We are trying to document as much as we can on this storm," he said.

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