Uniontown tornado destroyed 22 buildings, displaces 64 people, officials say |

Uniontown tornado destroyed 22 buildings, displaces 64 people, officials say

Renatta Signorini
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Housing debris is scattered through the yards of home near North Gallatin Avenue on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018 in Uniontown. A tornado touched down on Thursday night causing large swaths of property damage.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
A parked pick-up truck that was flattened by a falling tree after an F1 tornado touched down during a severe storm on Thursday night in Uniontown is seen Friday Feb. 16, 2018.

Many homes affected by Thursday’s rare tornado in Uniontown have been cleared for residents to return, officials said Monday.

But 22 buildings were destroyed and nine more were heavily damaged, said Thomas Perez, operations coordinator for The Salvation Army’s emergency disaster services unit.

In total, 218 structures sustained some level of damage — 73 with minor damage and 114 that mainly need to be cleaned up, he said. The information came during a conference call Monday afternoon with emergency management officials, Perez said.

State and local officials are still assessing the damage wrought by a rare February tornado at 7 p.m. Thursday that packed wind gusts of up to 105 mph and destroyed or damaged homes and businesses in the residential area centered on North Gallatin Avenue. Heavy winds from the EF1 twister ripped the roofs off of some structures and toppled trees and power lines.

It was the first time since 1950 that a tornado struck in the Pittsburgh region in February, according to the National Weather Service. Firefighters rescued people who were trapped in their homes or cars; one person sustained minor injuries.

Officials estimated that the tornado traveled about three-quarters of a mile, leaving damage contained to the north and east sides of the city. One eyewitness told the weather service he or she saw a funnel cloud touch the ground.

The American Red Cross is providing temporary lodging, food and clothing in 25 cases consisting of 64 people whose homes were destroyed or are uninhabitable, according to Dan Tobin, regional director of marketing and communications for the organization’s Western Pennsylvania Region. The agency distributed 34 supply kits to clean up minor damage.

“We still have teams that are going to be in the area,” Tobin said, adding that 42 volunteers and staff members assisted those in need.

The Salvation Army is providing meals for 35 people who are staying at a Uniontown hotel and distributed 18 cleanup supply kits, Perez said Thomas Perez.

“There’s a severe need out there,” Perez said. “The community’s been great.”

Many property owners spent the weekend cleaning up debris or protecting their structures from snow and rain.

“We’re still trying to see if we can find enough for a small business loans declaration,” said Greg Crossley, Uniontown emergency management coordinator. “That’s going to be about the best we can do.”

Such a declaration would enable renters and property owners who had uninsured or under-insured losses to apply for federal low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Association. Residents in Connellsville’s Dutch Bottom neighborhood and others in Bullskin and Connellsville townships qualified to apply for the loans after flash flooding damaged or destroyed more than 140 homes in August 2016.

According to the state emergency management agency, at least 25 structures must have had uninsured losses of 40 percent or more the replacement or fair market value of the property for an area to qualify for the loans. Crossley isn’t sure whether the total damages will meet those requirements because many structures were insured.

“I’m impressed with all the cooperation,” Crossley said. “Everybody worked so well together.”

In the meantime, local churches and community groups sent volunteers to help residents whose homes were impacted.

“We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our volunteers,” Tobin said.

The winds knocked out power to the neighborhood, but electricity was restored to most areas later Friday.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.