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Valley drenched by series of powerful thunderstorms

| Friday, Aug. 10, 2007

Black clouds blanketed the Mon Valley Thursday as a series of raging storms caused lightening damage and flooding throughout the area.

The first storms slammed the region shortly before 8 a.m. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Moon said three cells merged to form one massive system that dumped 2 inches of rain on the area in less than an hour.

Meteorologist Lee Hendricks said more than 1,300 lightning strikes hit the region.

The second storm hit about 2:50 p.m. The storm also caused thousands of Duquesne Light and Allegheny Power customers to lose power last night.

As of this morning, about 90 Allegheny Power customers were still without power, including about 40 in Belle Vernon and 30 in Bentleyville.

In Monessen, firefighters and police were busy throughout the afternoon as more than 20 calls flooded the fire department.

Municipal Fire Chief Tim Billick said firefighters had to rescue two people stranded in a van on the flooded area of Parente Avenue and Grand Boulevard. He said three vehicles were stuck in the washed out road, which was closed until the water receded after the storms.

"There had to be at least 3 feet of water on the road," Billick said.

Meanwhile, a landslide forced the closure of Route 906 near 17th Street. Billick said the department also received reports of four trees down in the city, numerous basement floods and a small electrical fire at the No. 1 Firemen's club.

Billick said the flooding also was reported in the Donner Avenue business section.

In California, lightning struck a house on California Drive about 4 p.m. Street crews this morning cleaned roads of debris and tree limbs leftover from the storm.

As much as 3 1/2 inches of rain fell in parts of Washington County, where flooding was reported, including Allenport, Roscoe and Charleroi.

Charleroi firefighters responded to 19 weather-related calls from 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday, fire chief Bob Whiten Jr. said. The volunteers pumped out flooded basements, and responded to a building where a roof partially collapsed in the 500 block of Fallowfield Avenue.

One telephone pole apparently was struck by lightning and in a separate incident, an electric wire was reportedly smoking, Whiten said.

A large tree fell across Calvary Road in Twilight, knocking down cable and telephone lines.

Telephone service to the Charleroi municipal building was knocked out during the storm, Mayor Frank Paterra reported. Telephone lines were still down this morning.

Heavy rains caused muddy water to cover most of the westbound lane of Route 136 near the Monongahela Bridge in Forward Township.

Low level flooding was reported in various locations in the downtown section of Monongahela, including the fire station and municipal building basement.

In Belle Vernon, Southwest Regional Police Chief John Hartman said the intersection of Washington Avenue and Blind Lane was washed out when the fast-moving storm hit.

A home located at that intersection owned by Bernadette Rogers received four feet of water in the basement.

On State Street, the Rev. Dave Zona of the First United Methodist Church escaped injury when his car traveled into a ditch alongside the church. Hartman said the backfill on a sewer line project on State Street was washed away from the storm, leaving behind a two-foot ditch.

"His car went in head first," Hartman said.

This is the second weather-related incident near the church as lightning struck the bell tower a few weeks ago during another storm.

Hartman said there were also reports of basement floods throughout the borough.

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