High winds knock out trees, power, close roads; damage worst in Westmoreland, Fayette

Mar. 4—Thousands of homes remained without power Saturday morning in Westmoreland and Fayette counties as a result of high winds that began moving through the region on Friday and remained a threat in some areas through early Saturday afternoon.

As of 11:20 a.m., West Penn Power reported more than 16,000 outages in Fayette County and about 8,000 outages in Westmoreland County, among a total of about 38,000 in the region served by parent company First Energy.

More than 1,000 customers each were without power in Ligonier and Mt. Pleasant townships.

A high wind warning remained in effect through 1 p.m. Saturday for Westmoreland and Fayette counties, particularly in the higher elevations, according to the National Weather Service in Moon Township. Wind gusts of up to 60 mph were possible.

The National Weather Service on Friday evening received reports of numerous fallen trees causing a structure collapse in the Ligonier area and a roof that was blown off a structure in the Mt. Pleasant area.

In Unity Township, damage was worst in the southeastern section of the township, according to township emergency management coordinator Tom Schultheis.

At least five homes in the township were damaged by fallen trees, he said.

As of 9 a.m. Saturday, a Westmoreland County 911 dispatcher said there were no reports of injuries related to wind damage in the county.

Westmoreland and Fayette counties "were hit pretty hard" by the winds, according to NWS meteorologist Lee Hendricks. "We had a report that a shed got pancaked in the Uniontown area."

Wind gusts of 56 mph were reported at 4 p.m. Friday at Connellsville's airport, he said. Early Saturday, respective gusts of 44 mph and 46 mph were measured at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity and at the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.

First responders in Westmoreland County were busy Saturday morning as more downed trees became were discovered after sunrise.

51,000 customers out at its peak

West Penn Power indicated that outages at one point had affected about 51,000 customers.

The utility said its crews were working 16-hour shifts in order to restore power but noted that workers were hindered by the conditions, with winds in excess of 40 mph preventing them from safely using bucket trucks.

The utility cautioned residents to stay at least 30 feet away from downed power lines.

First Energy reported about 350 outages in Allegheny County.

Duquesne Light reported about 250 outages among its customers as of 11 a.m., including about 100 in Robinson Township.

Morning road closures

As of 8:30 a.m., PennDOT reported the following storm-related road closures in Westmoreland and Fayette counties:

Westmoreland County

—Route 30 in both directions in Ligonier Township: from California Avenue/Nature Run Road to the Rest Area Exit due to downed trees and wires.

—Route 982 in Mount Pleasant Township: from Alice Road to Moccasin Hollow Road due to downed trees and wires.

—Route 982 in Mount Pleasant Township: from Tall Pine Drive to Route 130 due to downed trees and wires.

—Nature Run Road in Ligonier Township: from Hall Road to Kissell Springs Road due to downed trees and wires.

—Ankney Hill Road/Clay Pike Road in Mount Pleasant Township: from Clay Pike Road/Kecksburg Road to Sawmill Road due to downed trees.

Fayette County

—Route 119 in both directions: from Connellsville Street in North Union Township to Eighty Acres Road in Dunbar Township due to downed utilities.

—Yauger Hollow Road in North Union Township: from Mt. Braddock Road to Curry Hill Road due to downed trees and wires.

—Kreinbrook Road in Bullskin Township: from Ohler Road to Rydle Road due to downed trees and wires.

—Chalk Hill Ohiopyle Road in Wharton Township: from Old Mill Road to Greenbrier Road due to downed trees and wires.

—Dinnerbell/Ohiopyle Road: from Beaver Creek Road in Henry Clay Township to Pressley Ridge Road in Wharton Township due to downed trees and wires.

—Wymps Gap Road: in Springhill Township from the West Virginia state line to Spring Hill Furnace Road due to downed trees and wires.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at jhimler@triblive.com or via Twitter .