The effects of Sandy on the Fay-West region
Hurricane Sandy spared the Fay-West area from any major disasters, but her effects were still felt throughout the area as heavy rains kept local emergency officials busy cleaning up roadways and pumping out basements.
“We have been out since 4 this morning (Tuesday) pumping out basements,” said South Connellsville Fire Chief Steve Helms. “We have seen basements with water from six inches to four feet.”
Area fire departments and EMS units were on standby and ready for the high winds that were predicted to come through the area over the past two days. They were ready to respond to downed trees and downed power lines.
But the gusty winds missed the area.
The rains, however, didn't. Minor flooding was reported throughout mostly rural areas.
“Everything in our area turned out just fine,” said Fayette EMS Chief Rick Adobato. “We had only a few incidents with the snow in the mountains and a few slippery roads with a couple minor accidents, but everything is good now. It's just cold.”
Adobato said two members of the unit have been sent to the East Coast to assist in the emergency efforts there.
Locally, the Youghiogheny River crested earlier then expected and much lower then the 12 feet predicted at the onset of the storm.
“It's already going down,” said Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Water Management Werner Loehlein. “It crested at 8:45 a.m. (Tuesday) at 10.47 (feet) and it's falling pretty quickly.”
The rains did, however, wreak havoc on many side roads, with PennDOT announcing several closings.
Many of the closed roads are now open.
“The crews have been out and are reporting any changes or concerns,” said Valerie Peterson, PennDOT community Relations coordinator for District 12. “We had some bridges that were covered and some roads that were closed. The crews went out and put up barricades. Overall, we had about 20 roads closed.”
In Connellsville, many of the first responders have been sent home after a long night of being on alert.
“We had 13 calls since about 9:30 last night,” emergency management coordinator Jeff Layton said Tuesday morning. “We only had some minor basement flooding and a couple of roadways that flooded.”
Layton said a crew of 10 spent the night at the emergency operations center waiting for any calls concerning the high winds or flooding.
“There wasn't any wind, so that was good,” Layton said.
Layton said many of the basement flooding calls were a result of runoff problems.
Connellsville Mayor Charlie Matthews said everything stayed fairly quiet in the city with the winds staying in check.
“We were ready,” Matthews said. “The river is going down and we didn't hit the 13-foot mark. We haven't had anything more then a few basements that needed pumped out and that is good.”
No high winds also averted the city officials' worries that dilapidated structures such as the old Aaron building and WCVI building would come down.
On Tuesday morning, more than 4,300 homes in Fayette County were without power but most of those outages have been addressed and power has returned.
“We have crews ready so we could address any outages as quickly as possible,” said Scott Surgeoner, First Energy West Penn Power spokesman.
Most area schools were closed Tuesday.
“We cancelled for a mix of reasons,” said Terry Struble, superintendent in the Mt. Pleasant Area School District. “We had accumulating snow in the ridges. We had an estimate of four to six inches of snow on some of the roads this morning. In addition, there were a number of the smaller township roads that are on our bus routes that have streams crossing them, or are covered with water in some of the low-lying spots. The mix of snow and rain with lying water is not a safe solution for our buses or for other people needing to travel.”
Struble added that his first source of concern was the impending effects from the storm, but the actual weather received proved to be too much of a safety risk.
“My first call was for the impacts due to a hurricane,” Struble said. “I hoped the delay would work, but with the snow and rain, it wasn't going to be safe for buses to start out this morning or travel some of the routes.”
Weather forecasters say the area is expected to receive about one inch of rain over the next few days.
“The storm is still slowly circling Southwestern Pennsylvania but should be gone by Tuesday evening,” Nsaid Rihadd Gangat, meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Pittsburgh. “It will be leaving our region with some isolated and scattered storms. You may still see some winds with gusts up to 15 to 20 mph but the wind advisory has been cancelled.”
Peterson said that even though the weather is calming, the best route is to just stay home.
“If you don't need to go out, then don't go out,” Peterson said. “If you do go out, be more cautious then normal.”
Peterson said that the flooding on side roads can be deceiving and a motorist who is unfamiliar or driving at night may suddenly find themselves in a precarious situation.
“You know yourself and you know your vehicle,” Peterson said. “Drive slow and be cautious and keep an eye out.”
Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.