Cleanup continues after flooding, high winds

Published Jul 12, 2013 at 11:39 am (Updated Jul 12, 2013 at 11:39 am)

As if a day of flooding wasn’t enough for residents, a cold front the night of July 10 hurled wind at Washington County, ripping the roof from the swine barn at the fairgrounds in Arden and twisting part of it around a tree.

Workers wrangling buses for the upcoming school bus demolition derby saw the sky blacken and a funnel cloud “ripping (the barn roof) off sheet by sheet and wrapping it around a tree on Arden Road,” said Debbie Stephenson, general manager of the Washington County Fairgrounds and Expo Center.

Parts of the hilltop barn also were strewn onto the hillside field used as parking during fair week, said Jeff Yates, Washington County emergency management director. Stephenson said debris also was removed from the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum tracks adjacent to the fairgrounds.

Stephenson was preparing to have an insurance adjuster evaluate the damage, and she hopes to have the barn, which houses 60 swine, ready by Aug. 10 for the Washington County Fair.

Stephenson said she had not talked with the National Weather Service about the funnel cloud, which she said was “in and out very quickly” about 6 p.m.

“It just came down and hit. Only one building was damaged and nobody was injured,” she said.

Nearby buildings appeared to be untouched.

The high winds also caused power outages throughout Washington and Greene counties. Rob Lombardo, area manager for West Penn Power, said there were 4,600 residences in Washington County without power as of 5 p.m. July 11.

Meanwhile, Peters Township, where students had to be evacuated the morning of July 10 from a learning center on Route 19 near Upper St. Clair, issued a emergency disaster declaration on July 11, becoming the fourth community in the county to do so.

Children also had to be evacuated from Kristy’s Kiddy Care Learning Center in McDonald during the storm. About 10 children had to be relocated to the Heritage Library as 2 to 3 inches of water flooded into the day care center.

Kristy Fuller, owner of Kristy’s Kiddie Care, said that about 18 children were evacuated from the child center to the library. Fuller said her building did not have flood insurance and she expected to pay $5,000 restoring the space.

“We tried to seal up the doors with tile and whatever we had around,” said Mark Fuller, Kristy’s husband and co-owner of the children’s center. “It just came through the wall. There was no stopping it.”

Bob Amrhein, McDonald emergency management coordinator, said the borough fire department responded to between 65 and 70 storm-related calls, including five rescues. There were no injuries.

Although emergency personnel worked feverishly to prepare for a second round of storms that rolled through the evening of July 10, Amrhein said morning rains caused almost all of the damage.

“Actually, it was a blessing,” Amrhein said. “The second storm was a pup compared to the first.”

Borough officials said it was too early to put a dollar amount of damages caused by the floodwaters, but most of the businesses at the shopping plaza adjacent to the municipal park were affected.

More than 2 1/2 inches of rain fell the morning of July 10 in Peters Township, where at Colonial Modern Furniture, 2810 Washington Road, employees spent the next morning throwing soggy carpet samples in the back of a truck while the store remained closed.

Flooding along five-lane Route 19 was the result of an overflowing small stream at the rear of the businesses, said Ed Zuk, township planning director. At some locations, the stream that flows into Brush Run Creek travels through a 10-inch pipe. With the heavy rain, the pipe was incapable of letting the water flow through, said Mark Zemaitis, the township’s director of engineering. Some of the worst damage, in addition to Washington Road, was to homes and businesses on Valley Brook Road where Brush Run Creek runs parallel.

Yates sent an email to all municipalities in the county asking them to enumerate uninsured damages to homes, businesses and infrastructure. He plans to forward that to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which will in turn send it to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The estimates are due July 15, but he wasn’t holding out much hope for a federal disaster declaration.

One possibility was that the federal government would look at all of the uninsured damage in Western Pennsylvania as a unit, which could increase the region’s chance for aid.

Staff writers Aaron Kendeall and Terri T. Johnson contributed to this story.

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