Strong storm knocks out power in Westmoreland, Fayette

Joe Napsha
| Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, 10:21 a.m.

Linda Ames thought the roof of her Bear Rocks home in Fayette County would be torn apart early Friday by trees and wind gusts that topped 60 mph.

The storm downed power lines and left more than 50,000 residences and businesses without electricity in southwestern Pennsylvania.

“It sounded like the roof was coming off. It was scary. We lucked out,” Ames said as her husband, J.D., and her father, Ken Pospisil of Acme, used chain saws to cut several of the 15 downed trees that covered the yard of her home on Chestnut Ridge on the Westmoreland-Fayette border.

Trees smashed into a back porch, ruined a trampoline and tore apart gutters, but the roof was spared. The storm hit about 4 a.m., several residents of the development said.

“We just got blessed. The good Lord was looking out for us,” said J.D. Ames, who said the gusts that lasted about 15 minutes “sounded like a freight train.”

No injuries were reported as a result of the storm, said Daniel Stevens, spokesman for the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety.

“We had a lot of people running into trees and branches that were down, but no one was injured,” Stevens said.

Residents of Bear Rocks were among about 9,170 customers in Western Pennsylvania still without power in the evening. Diane Holder, a spokeswoman for West Penn Power of Greensburg, said the company will have crews working overnight to restore power.

The utility had as many as 56,000 customers without power in Western Pennsylvania, according to Todd Meyers, a company spokesman.

FirstEnergy Corp., the parent firm of West Penn Power, anticipates sending more line crews into the region on Saturday morning from its sister utility companies in Ohio, Meyers said. The company could not say when customers in particular areas would have their power restored, Meyers said.

Power outages forced Armbrust Christian Academy in Mt. Pleasant Township, St. John the Baptist School in Scottdale and schools in the Southmoreland School District, all in Westmoreland County, to close.

In Fayette, Uniontown Area School District was closed, along with St. John the Evangelist School in Uniontown.

The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh measured wind gusts at 60 mph to 70 mph as a result of the storm, according to Brad Rehak, a weather service meteorologist.

The gusts were clocked as high as 77 mph at the traffic control tower at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity, Stevens said.

The weather service issued warnings that the region could be hit with a microburst — an intensified gust of straight-line winds from a thunderstorm — but the agency did not know whether the Bear Rocks region along Route 31 was hit by such a gust, Rehak said.

Down the hill from the Ames' residence, Jimmy Paul had about 10 large trees toppled on his Birch Road property, and a tree had snapped a utility pole in front of his house, cutting off his power.

“I'm lucky I did not get killed last night” by a tree crashing into the house, Paul said as he inspected a 100-foot-tall oak that fell away from the house. Numerous large trees on his 3-acre property were toppled or snapped off at the top, but none hit the structure.

Paul said he heard a loud “woosh” about 4 a.m., then booms, which he believes were the sounds of the trees snapping and falling over.

It was the worst storm he has experienced in the 25 years he has lived there, Paul said.

Paul said he is ready for an extended period without power and can go to his parents' house nearby, if necessary.

“I'm used to being without power for a couple of weeks,” Paul said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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