High winds knock out power, injure man at Cranberry construction site
A powerful nor’easter is expected to dump rain and snow from northern West Virginia through New England, delivering treacherous travel conditions for Western Pennsylvanians who plan to head east for Thanksgiving, the National Weather Service said.
“It looks like Wednesday will be a really bad day for traveling,” said Rihaan Gangat, a meteorologist at the agency’s Moon office. “If you are traveling east, be careful and pay attention out there.”
Wind gusting up to 60 mph Monday caused damage and knocked out power to thousands of electricity customers, giving people a taste of the bad weather to come.
Forecasters anticipate the storm to develop along the East Coast as millions of travelers head to Thanksgiving destinations.
“I would pack your patience,” said Robert Sinclair Jr. of AAA New York.
The storm, forecast to dump rain along the coast and snow inland, could cause delays at Northeast airports and along the region’s busy highways.
Western Pennsylvania counties likely will miss much of the rain and snow, though forecasters expect six inches or more of snow in parts of West Virginia and central Pennsylvania.
“Right now, it is uncertain where exactly that track will come,” Gangat said. “But it certainly appears that it will be to the east of us.”
The storm should pass through by Thursday morning, he said.
PennDOT plans to deploy crews to clear snow through the holiday but will not pretreat roadways, agency Secretary Barry Schoch said.
“The rain will wash salt brine away,” Schoch said. “This is one of the reasons why it’s so critical that we have real-time conditions and that drivers closely watch forecasts to decide whether they should travel.”
As strong wind blew across Ohio and into Pennsylvania, it knocked down utility lines and trees, disrupting power for thousands. The Ohio Turnpike ordered a travel ban for some large trucks, motor homes and campers through Monday afternoon.
The wind brought by a cold front chased away temperatures just short of a record high 69 degrees set in 1931. The high in Pittsburgh reached 68, the weather service reported.
A wind advisory remained in effect until 10 p.m., though the worst gusts passed through in the afternoon. A gust at the Allegheny County Airport reached 58 mph, and a 64-mph gust was recorded at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport, Gangat said.
Wind blew out wooden two-by-fours and plastic covering an open window at a Cranberry construction site for the UPMC-Pittsburgh Penguins sports performance center and practice rink, injuring a worker who went to Allegheny General Hospital for treatment.
Duquesne Light and FirstEnergy reported more than 35,000 customers without power at various times, including about 6,700 in Washington County.
“It’s not uncommon to have winds like this, but it doesn’t happen every day,” said Todd Meyers, a spokesman for FirstEnergy subsidiary West Penn Power.
Chief Alvin Henderson said people flooded the Allegheny County Emergency Services Center with calls about downed trees, tree limbs and power lines throughout the day.
“It was all wind-related,” he said. “We had live power lines down, arcing and sparking. It was pretty much throughout the entire county.”
A line snapped and crackled before falling to the sidewalk in front of Maya Johnson, general manager of Klavon’s Ice Cream parlor in the Strip District, as she decorated the front windows for Christmas.
“We heard the first pop, and the wind picked up more,” said Johnson, 33, of Crafton.
One end of the power line got caught in trees on the side of the Penn Avenue building, sending sparks flying over the heads of customers and other passers-by before police cordoned off the area.
“It was pretty scary,” Johnson said. “At first, we thought it was lightning.”
Simone Koffman and her husband, Allen, encountered the windstorm shortly after crossing the border between Canada and the United States at Buffalo.
The Toronto residents stopped at a rest area along Interstate 79 in Washington County on their annual drive to Palm Beach, Fla. The wind pushed their white Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle around the road amid tractor-trailers jockeying to stay in their lanes, the couple said.
“It’s terrible. It just moves this whole car all over,” said Simone Koffman, 58. “We’re going a lot slower. Normally, we would have made better time.”
“But it’s better safe than sorry,” said Allen Koffman, 58.
Jason Cato is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or [email protected]. The Associated Press contributed.