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Storms close camping sites

Mary Pickels
| Tuesday, May 29, 2012, 11:30 p.m.

The long holiday weekend was a washout for some Memorial Day campers.

While a second round of storms blew through the region on Tuesday, they were brief and left minimal damage.

After several days of 90-degree temperatures, thunder, lightning and heavy downpours blew through the region early Sunday evening.

The storm emptied swimming pools, doused barbecue pits and caused enough damage to temporarily close the Bush Recreation Camping Area at Loyalhanna Lake.

Campers were evacuated when the 5:30 p.m. storm swept through, resource manager Paul Toman said yesterday. The goal is to reopen on Friday.

The Saltsburg site, operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, has 44 camping slots, Toman said. Campers drive motor homes, tow trailers and pitch tents.

The campground was full on Saturday night. When the storm started on Sunday, 25 sites were still occupied.

"Large trees were windblown and ended up on the tops of picnic tables, on fire rings. We have to cut and remove those before we can (reopen). Luckily, there were no injuries," he said.

Throughout the hourlong storm, trees upward of 25 feet snapped and fell, he said.

At 6:30 p.m., park rangers assessed the campground.

Electrical power was lost, affecting the public restrooms, well water system and fee booth, Toman said.

"The last camper left at 9:30 p.m.," Toman said.

Yesterday's rain lasted only minutes in Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

"We had a couple of flooded basements, some trees down. They (showers) were really quick when they came through," said Dan Stevens, spokesman for the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety.

The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh earlier had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for numerous counties, including Allegheny, Armstrong, Indiana and Washington. The storm threat was expected to end by early evening.

Electrical power was restored to the Loyalhanna Lake area yesterday, Toman said, but the cleanup will take several days.

"We have a lot of gravel roadways that were rutted and washed out. We are restoring those," he said.

The boat launching ramp was closed yesterday.

"The primary mission of this project is flood control. ... At a certain elevation -- 927 feet above sea level -- the ramp becomes flooded," Toman said.

Drifting debris and logs can float on the lake, creating safety hazards, he said.

"We have to remove those or mark them with buoys," he said.

A second Corps of Engineers site, the Tub Run Campground at Youghiogheny River Lake in Confluence in Somerset County, had to close during the weekend.

A leak was discovered in the water tank supplying water to the campground, Corps of Engineers spokesman Jeff Hawk said.

The campground closed at 4 p.m. Monday, and reservations for the next two weeks will be canceled and refunded, he said.

"We had no storm damage, just antiquated infrastructure," Hawk said yesterday.

The campground may reopen earlier if the tank can be quickly sealed or replaced, he said.

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