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National Weather Service confirms tornado struck in Westmoreland | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

National Weather Service confirms tornado struck in Westmoreland

Two tornadoes have ripped through Keenan Greenhill Farm in Hempfield. Curt Keenan lived through both.

He was 11 during the first, an EF2 twister on June 15, 1964.

But on Wednesday night, Keenan, 65, barely escaped death after he decided to get a good look at the storm near the farm’s silo on Brinker Road.

“The roof of my barn went flying over my head,” he said as crews restored electricity. “It was definitely a tornado. We saw it.”

A National Weather Service team on Thursday investigated the storm that struck Westmoreland County around 8 p.m. Wednesday, looking at damage in at least three townships — Hempfield, Mt. Pleasant and Unity.

The team confirmed that two tornadoes, each with winds of 70 to 80 mph, were responsible for the damage.

The first began just after 8 p.m. in a Hempfield field between Brinker Road and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, according to a preliminary National Weather Service report. After damaging Keenan’s barn, the storm caused mostly tree damage before it petered out about 2 miles away along Udell Road in Mt. Pleasant Township.

According to the report, the second tornado formed at about 8:20 p.m. in Unity, a mile southwest of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport. It ended less than a mile away after tearing part of a roof from an open-faced barn.

The NWS team was unable to conclude whether “extremely localized” damage in the West Newton and Rostraver areas could be attributed to a tornado.

Numerous trees snapped or uprooted in those areas, all of which are rural with few homes and wide open spaces.

Residents said the ferocious, fast-moving storm came through so quickly that they had little time to run for shelter after receiving emergency alerts on their cell phones.

“All of a sudden, it got real windy and we all headed to the basement and the storm literally came flying by,” said Tom Blair of Henrys Road in Unity Township, about a mile from Arnold Palmer Regional Airport. “We saw branches flying past the window.”

His son, Mason, 7, was frustrated he missed out on some of the excitement.

“I was sleeping upstairs and they woke me up to take me down to the basement as the storm passed,” he said.

Tom Blair had a busy day cleaning up tree branches and assessing roof damage. But he feels fortunate the damage was not worse.

“It was amazing. It was over in seconds, and just a few miles away my neighbor was coaching a teener league baseball game and they had nothing,” Blair said.

A large branch came through the Udell living room ceiling of Donald and Carlene Sluka’s home, ruining her vacuum job from hours earlier.

“‘I just swept,'” she said, according to their son Jason Sluka. “‘Seriously, mum?'”

Area firefighters helped patch the hole in their roof. Jason Sluka and his wife had just come over for a visit when the storm hit.

“My wife thought she heard gunshots,” he said. “Then we see all these birds taking off.

“We see debris flying back there and we’re like, ‘Oh, (expletive), we should do something about this.’ It was done and over within two minutes.”

Firefighters and neighbors in the small Mt. Pleasant Township village banded together to check on each other and cut down numerous trees that blocked roads.

The Slukas have lived in that spot since 1975, suffering a fire in 1985 before rebuilding their home.

“I’m glad the whole neighborhood is OK,” Carlene Sluka said.

Not far away, chiropractor Dr. Carl Edge’s home had the gutters ripped off and branches were lying on his roof.

“It was real calm and I go, ‘There’s the calm before the storm,'” Edge said.

He was right.

“The next thing we knew, it just came through,” he said. “We saw a funnel cloud. It went right over our property.”

Back at the Hempfield beef cattle farm, which supplies produce for JP’s Farmers Market , green beans had been shot 4 inches into the ground from the wind but the herd of 138 cows was safe. Barns and milking equipment were not as lucky.

“The roof completely blew off the milk house,” said Paul Milowicki, whose son, Joel, farms the land.

Wednesday’s tornado took a different path than the one in 1964, Keenan said.

But both happened so quickly “you didn’t have time to be scared,” he said. “I didn’t find my hat — my hat went.”

Renatta Signorini and Paul Peirce are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or [email protected] Reach him at 724-850-2860 or [email protected]


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Dylan Davis
A possible tornado beginning to form near Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.
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Courtesy of Dylan Davis
A possible tornado beginning to form near Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.
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Jonna Miller | Tribune-Review
The storm system darkends the sky near Ruffs Dale around 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, 2018.
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Jonna Miller | Tribune-Review
The storm system swirls near Ruffs Dale around 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, 2018.
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Submitted photo
A Tribune-Review reader took this photo from the Mt. Pleasant High School football field earlier Wednesday evening.
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Courtesy of Erik Adams
Tribune-Review reader Erik Adams took this photo from the top of Buckeye Tram facing toward the Mount Pleasant area earlier Wednesday evening, June 27, 2018.
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Courtesy of Erik Adams
Tribune-Review reader Erik Adams took this photo of a looming storm from the top of Buckeye Tram facing toward the Mount Pleasant area earlier Wednesday evening, June 27, 2018.
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Courtesy of Nicole Cunningham
Above, a photo submitted by reader Nicole Cunningham, of the storm system near Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township on Wednesday, June 28, 2018.
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Courtesy of Nicole Cunningham
Above, a photo submitted by reader Nicole Cunningham, of the storm system near Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township on Wednesday, June 28, 2018.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Tornado damage remains at Keenan's Greenhill Farm along Brinker Road in Hempfield Township on Thursday, June 28, 2018. The roof of the barn, milk house and manure shed were ripped apart Wednesday evening, leaving sheet metal littering the fields of the farm and flipping over two additional out buildings.
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Dylan Davis
A possible tornado beginning to form near Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.
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Courtesy of Dylan Davis
A possible tornado beginning to form near Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.
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WPXI/Twitter
The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh has ruled that it was indeed a tornado that touched down in Westmoreland County on Wedneday, June 27, 2018.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jason Sluka talks about a tree that came through the roof of his parents' home when a tornado touched down in the village of Udell along Cannonball Court in Mt. Pleasant Township, Thursday, June 28, 2018.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Debris litters the yard of Donald and Darlene Sluka after a tornado is believed to have touched down in the village of Udell, along Cannonball Court in Mt. Pleasant Township, Thursday, June 28, 2018. The Sluka's had a tree branch punch through their roof and come into the living room.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A tornado is believed to have touched down in the village of Udell, along Cannonball Court in Mt. Pleasant Township, Thursday, June 28, 2018.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Donald Sluka surveys the damage to his home that included a tree branch breaking through his roof and coming through the ceiling of his living room after a tornado touched down in the village of Udell, along Cannonball Court in Mt. Pleasant Township, Thursday, June 28, 2018.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A tornado is believed to have touched down in the village of Udell, along Cannonball Court in Mt. Pleasant Township, Thursday, June 28, 2018.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A tornado is believed to have touched down in the village of Udell, along Cannonball Court in Mt. Pleasant Township, Thursday, June 28, 2018.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A tornado is believed to have touched down in the village of Udell, along Cannonball Court in Mt. Pleasant Township, Thursday, June 28, 2018.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A tornado is believed to have touched down in the village of Udell, along Cannonball Court in Mt. Pleasant Township, Thursday, June 28, 2018.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Tornado damage to Keenan's Green Hill Farm, along Brinker Road in Hempfield Township on Thursday, June 28, 2018. The roof of the barn, milk house, and manure shed, were ripped apart, leaving sheet metal littering the fields of the farm, and flipping over two additional out buildings.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Tornado damage to Keenan's Green Hill Farm, along Brinker Road in Hempfield Township is seen onThursday, June 28, 2018. The roof of the barn, milk house, and manure shed, were ripped apart, leaving sheet metal littering the fields of the farm, and flipping over two additional out buildings.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A tornado is believed to have touched down in the village of Udell, along Cannonball Ct., in Mt. Pleasant Twp., Thursday, June 28, 2018.
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