Roads scattered across Western Pennsylvania — including some major highways — closed Thursday as heavy rains caused flooding throughout the region. In North Huntingdon, a sinkhole opened outside of a North Huntingdon daycare center, forcing its evacuation.
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning at 7:30 Thursday evening for eastern Westmoreland County until 10:30 p.m. Areas in Latrobe, McChesneytown-Loyalhanna, Lawson Heights in Unity Township, and Youngstown expected flooding, particularly along the Loyalhanna Creek in Latrobe, impacting nearby roadways and low lying areas.
A flash flood warning was also issued Thursday morning for parts of Westmoreland County as well as Allegheny. While the torrential downpour eased early in the afternoon, another round of potentially damaging storms is possible later in the day.
A flash flood watch was in effect until 8 p.m., bringing the possibility that the later storms could have strong winds, heavy rain and small hail, the weather service tweeted.
At about 5:30 p.m., most areas in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties had experienced up to about 2 inches of rainfall over the previous 24 hours, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist John Darnley. The hardest-hit areas were Greensburg, which saw more than 3.4 inches of rain during that period, as well as Fox Chapel and Oakmont, where nearly 3.6 inches of rain fell.
A huge sinkhole opened beneath the playground at the North Huntingdon KinderCare on Norwin Avenue when a large drainage pipe collapsed around 11 a.m., according to North Huntingdon Emergency Management Coordinator Gene Komondor.
The preschool was evacuated and nobody was hurt. A spokeswoman said the center would remain closed at least until Monday .
“The hole continues to get bigger by the moment,” Komondor said, large chunks of earth falling into the hole as he spoke.
Workers used an excavator to dig into the sinkhole, making it accessible so that the replacement of the drainage pipe and other damaged utility lines could begin.
Komondor said the sinkhole was stabilized by Thursday night and surrounded with fencing. He added it will require extensive repairs.
By mid-afternoon, West Penn Power reported that 854 customers were without electricity, 551 in Donegal Township, 86 in Penn Township and 36 in Murrysville.
That number shrank to 113 between Westmoreland and Allegheny counties 8:30 p.m.
Route 119 was closed in several places Thursday afternoon. At Willow Crossing Road, in Hempfield, Jack’s Run creek flooded its banks and covered Route 119, trapping two drivers who attempted to brave the deluge, according to firefighter Barry Elder of the Midway St.-Clair Volunteer Fire Department. The highway had reopened to traffic by 7:30 p.m.
The water was so swift and high that it picked up one of the cars and carried it off the road, Elder said.
Both drivers were rescued.
Elder said he’s seen that section of road flood twice before: last year and in 1972 during Hurricane Agnes.
“That’s the bridge that runs over Jack’s Run, normally,” he said, gesturing to Willow Crossing Road. “Now Jack’s Run’s running over it.”
By 12:30 p.m., Route 119 near the Dairy Queen in Greensburg was covered in water, reopening later in the afternoon. Adjacent Lynch Field, including the parking lots around the Aerobic Center, was also submerged by the waters of Jack’s Run. It closed and canceled activities.
Third Street in Youngwood also was closed due to flooding, reopening later in the day.
Emergency crews had to rescue the occupants of a car trapped in rising water along Brush Creek Road in the Harrison City area.
Swiftwater rescue teams were sent to the corner of Route 30 and 10th Street in Irwin just before noon to rescue a woman trapped in her car in the flooded roadway, according to Westmoreland County 911.
Heavy flooding was reported on Latrobe Derry Road, North Greengate Road in Hempfield, and on several roads in Penn Township, Murrysville and Irwin.
Flooding closed Tarr Hollow Road in Murrysville for about an hour. The road reopened around noon. Other Westmoreland closures included:
• Union Cemetery Road in Hempfield.
• A section of Route 381 north of Rector area in Ligonier Township. The nearby intersection of Route 381 and Linn Run Road was temporarily closed, according to emergency officials.
• Guffey and Pine Hollow roads in North Huntingdon were closed throughout the day, but reopened by Thursday night. Officials did not immediately say why the roads were closed.
There were many reports of residential flooding and downed trees and wires across the county, and there is more rain to come.
No additional rainfall was expected Thursday night, officials from the National Weather Service said.
Today’s rain has put the greater Pittsburgh area ahead of last year.
Rainfalls recorded at Pittsburgh International Airport Thursday brought the year total to 30.02 inches, making 2019 the second wettest year-to-date, and putting it ahead of the record breaking 29.35 inches recorded last year.
The National Weather Service recorded 2.31 inches at Pittsburgh International Airport, falling short of the record of 2.96 inches set in 1971. But some areas got upwards of 3 inches of rain, with some spots higher than even that — a spotter measured 4.35 inches in Mt. Washington, according to the weather service.