Thousands lose power in Westmoreland as high winds rip through area
As wind ripped through the region Sunday, thousands in Westmoreland County dealt with downed trees and power lines and closed roads.
The National Weather Service reported winds as high as 60 mph at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport near Latrobe and 53 mph near Pittsburgh International Airport.
The region was under a high wind warning until 7:45 p.m., when the NWS downgraded the conditions to a wind advisory. The advisory will remain in effect until 7 a.m. Monday.
A wind advisory, according to the NWS, means wind speeds greater than 30 mph are expected, with gusts reaching up to 45 mph. The high wind warning meant the region would experience wind gusts of up to 60 mph.
Temperatures will dip down into the low 30s on Monday and Tuesday with chances for snow on Wednesday.
Westmoreland County Public Safety Director Roland Mertz said Sunday night that crews responded to around 500 calls of downed trees and electrical wires.
“We had to call in extra dispatchers and staff because of the high call volumes,” Mertz said at about 8:45 p.m. “And the wind’s still blowing and the calls are still coming in.”
Mertz said he has dealt with high winds before, but never for this long.
“We’re going on close to 14 hours right now. It’s almost sustained winds instead of gusts – it just continues,” he said.
As many as 7,000 customers had lost power early Sunday afternoon, including a large swath of downtown Greensburg, where fire crews installed portable generators to power traffic signals.
By 6:20 p.m., West Penn Power reported 13,700 customers who had been affected by power outages in Westmoreland County.
By 8 p.m., that number swelled to nearly 15,500. About 80,000 customers in the power company’s service area were reported to be without power at that time.
As just one example, a section of Route 981 in Loyalhanna Township was closed about 7:30 p.m. because of downed trees and electrical lines. A Westmoreland County 911 dispatch official said PennDOT was directing traffic because the road was closed between Moween and Old Cemetery roads.
Mertz did not have an estimate as to when roads would reopen and when power would be restored.
He said power company officials have assured him they are handling issues such as live power lines on busy roadways first because that is an immediate risk to public safety.
“You have to look at the amount of rain and moisture we’ve had, and the snow melt … that’s loosened the root systems up. So the wind’s pushing these big trees over like their just a piece of lumber,” Mertz said.
Pleasant Valley Road near Lyons Run Road was blocked off by police for a time Sunday when branches fell on a power line.
Some trees fell on houses.
One fell on a house on Brush Creek Road in North Huntingdon, and another struck a house on Pleasant Valley Road in Murrysville.
A felled tree blocked a Hempfield driveway, while a large tree along Arizona Drive in Lower Burrell fell in a resident’s yard.
Mertz said he had not heard of any serious injuries that had been reported.
“I’ve been out on a lot of calls myself so I couldn’t tell right now,” Mertz said.
The county’s radio transmission tower on Mt. Odin, which services much of central Westmoreland County, was without power for more than two hours. The tower remained in operation with batteries until power was restored, Mertz said.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .