City makes preparations for Isabel's visit
More than 150 flights from Pittsburgh International Airport to the East Coast were canceled Thursday because of Hurricane Isabel.
JoAnn Jenny, spokeswoman for the Allegheny County Airport Authority, said 158 flights to the Carolinas, Florida and the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area were canceled.
"We've done some preplanning to avoid (having) people stranded at airports, or aircraft being diverted," she said. "It's safer and easier to keep them home."
She said people can reschedule their flights within seven days without additional fees.
As Hurricane Isabel hit North Carolina yesterday, Allegheny County residents prepared for possible power outages or flooding as the storm's remnants reached Pennsylvania.
"I got myself a half-gallon of milk and when I run out, I'll just turn to beer," said John Cerepani of Arctic Avenue, along the Monongahela River in McKeesport. Cerepani said he wasn't worried by warnings of possible flooding in the area.
"I ain't going crazy worrying about what might happen. Que sera sera," he said.
In flood-prone Hays, Marcy Jefferson said she took her antique dining room chairs to the second floor of her home and planned to stay overnight at her son's house.
"If the house floods, we'll deal with it in the morning," she said.
In Harmar, Bob Seibert worked to avoid a repeat of the $35,000 worth of damage that his business, Seibert's Harbor View Marina, sustained in a 1996 flood. He spent much of yesterday removing docks and ensuring all boats were out of the water.
The National Weather Service issued a flood watch until 10 p.m. today for Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Fayette, Forest, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Rains could total more than 21/2 inches in less than 12 hours, the Weather Service said, noting that the amount will vary according to the storm system's path and intensity.
Joyce Kunkle, of Veryl Drive near Little Pine Creek in Etna, said she stocked up on food and batteries ahead of the storm. However, representatives of local hardware stores surveyed yesterday by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported no run on storm-related supplies.
Several school districts east and north of Allegheny County canceled or delayed classes in anticipation of the storm. Local school officials said they were waiting to see whether the storm would be severe enough to warrant similar action.
Officials from the Plum, Baldwin-Whitehall, Hampton, North Hills, McKeesport, Pittsburgh and Riverview school districts said they will use their usual means -- phone chains, Web sites, local media and messages on district answering machines -- to notify the public of any cancellations or delays. Athletic directors from North Hills and Seneca Valley arranged to play their football game on Saturday if weather keeps the teams from playing each other tonight.
Allegheny County officials said they have 10,000 sandbags that can be distributed to any community needing them, with access to another 10,000 sandbags if necessary. Emergency coordinators said Elizabeth, Braddock and McKeesport are most susceptible to flooding.
City of Pittsburgh Public Works Department and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority have cleared debris from catch basins to prevent flooding of the sewer system.
Duquesne Light and Allegheny Power spokesmen said the utilities increased staffing and kept maintenance workers on alert in case of outages.
Port Authority of Allegheny County planned to run a regular schedule today but spokesman Bob Grove warned that some routes might be altered if roads are flooded.
Staff writers George Aspiotes, Elizabeth Barczack, Brandon Keat, Maggi Newhouse and Karen Roebuck and Valley News Dispatch writer Rob Amen contributed to this report.