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Rain drenches holiday events

| Saturday, July 5, 2003

Fourth of July festivities were dampened - literally - when dark clouds rolled through the Mon Valley, spurring heavy rains and gusty winds Friday evening.

The sudden storms forced West Elizabeth to cancel its fireworks display, rescheduling the event until tonight.

The weather didn't hinder fireworks displays in Coal Center - although it was nearly 10 p.m. before the California Boat Club launched them Friday evening.

Monongahela's fireworks display also went off without a hitch.

The National Weather Service in Moon Township issued a severe thunderstorm watch and flood watch for Allegheny, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties yesterday evening.

In a special weather statement, the service advised residents that downpours could produce more than an inch of rain in an hour's time.

The statement also called for those in affected areas to brace for dangerous lightening and winds of more than 35 mph.

Emergency calls flooded area dispatchers, with downed trees and power lines reported in several Mid-Mon Valley communities.

A supervisor said Westmoreland County 911 received a heavier than normal call volume.

A rash of phone calls streamed into the dispatch center for more than an hour, he said.

"We received many calls; trees down, wires down, a couple of flood calls, lightening strikes," he said. "We've been swamped."

State Police at the Belle Vernon Barracks reported a downed tree near the North Belle Vernon exit of Interstate 70 West, blocking one lane of traffic.

An Allegheny Power spokeswoman said crews were sent to Washington and Canonsburg to repair downed wires and restore scattered power outages.

While those areas sustained some damage, she said Butler bore the brunt of the storm as 800 residences were left without electricity.

Power was expected to be restored last night, although some customers could still be without power this morning, the spokeswoman said.

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