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Record-breaking storms expose Consol Energy Center's leaky roof

| Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 7:21 a.m.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Downed trees and wires block the intersection of Davis and Fleming avenues in Brighton Heights on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Workers from Pittsburgh Public Works, traffic division roll up downed fiber optic lines that connect the city's traffic signals along Penn Avenue between 16th and 17th Sstreets in the Strip District on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, after storms rolled through the region overnight.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Part of a tree rests between parked cars on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Uptown. Witnesses say it was struck by lightning during a storm.
Kelly Vernon | Trib Total Media
Storm downs tree in Norvelt A portion of a tree struck by lightning recently fell across Greensburg-Mt. Pleasant Road at West Laurel Circle in Norvelt, taking down electrical wires and blocking traffic, according to a dispatcher at Westmoreland 911. Norvelt Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene, the dispatcher said. The downed electrical wires left about 350 FirstEnergy customers without power in Westmoreland and Fayette counties and parts of Allegheny, said Terri Knupp, the utility’s area manager.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Firefighters from Elizabeth Township responded to a possible lightning strike at a home on the corner of Roslyn and Salem Streets in the Boston section of the township Tuesday afternoon.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A Pittsburgh Police officer directs traffic around the remnants of a flash flood near Exit 74 on the Parkway and Beechwood Boulevard in Squirrel Hill, Tuesday. Several cars and an ambulance were stranded in the flood.

Record-breaking storms might have exacerbated a nagging issue with insulation in the roof of Consol Energy Center and forced 20 to 30 music fans to relocate during a concert because of a water leak.

Tim Hassett, Consol's general manager, said the roof has had small leaks at times, causing a “slow drip in a couple spots.” Though the installer and manufacturer have tried to address the problem, he said, leaks were more extensive during Tuesday night's storms.

“I'm sure the volume of rainfall had a lot to do with what happened,” he said.

Tuesday's storms broke Pittsburgh's record 1.62 inches of rainfall for May 27 with 1.67 inches and caused flooding throughout Western Pennsylvania, said Lee Hendricks, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Hassett said workers will visit Consol on Thursday to assess the problem, determine why the leaks occurred and decide how to fix them. He said he was unsure how long they would take to repair, but that officials would try to have the leaks addressed by next week to be prepared for upcoming events.

Consol Energy Center cost about $321 million to build and opened in August 2010. In addition to being a concert venue, it is home to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Power, an Arena Football League team.

Hassett said the leak did not interrupt the performances of Rod Stewart and Santana. He said the relocation of the concert-goers was a “fairly easy move.”

Another round of storms on Wednesday, though less severe in Pittsburgh, forced emergency responders to evacuate homes and buildings in a two-mile area around a MarkWest Energy facility in Washington County. Lightning apparently struck the natural gas processing plant in Chartiers and caused an explosion about 6 p.m., said county 911 operations manager Ken Bollinger.

No one was reported hurt, he said. A small fire was quickly extinguished, but an apparent gas leak sent up a plume over the plant, Bollinger said.

Responders closed roads near the plant, which processes Marcellus shale gas along state Route 519. Bollinger said evacuees were taken by bus to the Mount Pleasant Township Volunteer Fire Company in Hickory and the Chartiers Township Volunteer Fire Department.

County Public Safety Director Jeffrey Yates estimated that 100 people were evacuated.

“The evacuation was lifted about 9:25 p.m. (Yates) said there were no more leaks at the facility and that the plant is stable. All local roads are open,” Bollinger said.

Intense rain swamped several roads in Washington County, including in California borough, Chartiers and Canonsburg, an emergency dispatcher said.

Runoff was the main culprit in spotty flash floods as waterways appeared to stay within their banks, he said. No evacuations or weather-related injuries were reported.

Basement flooding was reported in Elizabeth Township, county emergency dispatchers said.

Roads and basements were reported flooded in several communities in Westmoreland County, including Sutersville and Lowber, as well as Rostraver, Sewickley and South Huntingdon townships, according to the weather service.

Most of the rain was expected to clear out by midmorning Thursday.

Four elementary schools in Pittsburgh — Langley, Miller, Manchester and Weil — did not open on Wednesday amid power outages. However, Ebony Pugh, spokeswoman for Pittsburgh Public Schools, anticipated that all would reopen on Thursday.

Megan Henney and Adam Smeltz are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Staff writer Michael Hasch contributed to this story.

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