Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Storm causes power outages

by The Indiana Gazette on May 27, 2011 3:00 AM

A swiftly moving thunderstorm passed through southern and central Indiana County early Thursday evening, blowing trees onto power lines and disrupting electrical service for more than 20,000 customers.

As of this morning, about 1,200 Penelec customers remained without power, said spokesman Denny Platt. Service was to have been restored before noon, he said.

The storm also disrupted service for about 4,800 REA Energy Cooperative customers, mostly in Cherryhill, White, Rayne, Conemaugh, West Wheatfield, Young and Blacklick townships. As of this morning, about 500 customers in the Cookport, Uniontown, Smithport, Kenwood, Yellow Creek, Brush Valley and Bolivar areas remained without power.

"Crews worked through the night working on restoration," REA spokes-man Chad Carrick said in a statement.

"We are in the process of using all of our employee contractor crews and tree crews to restore power to the remaining outages. The estimated time of full restoration is later today."

The storm passed through the area around 5:30 p.m., dumping about two-tenths of an inch of rain, according to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh.

More fell in neighboring counties. About a half-inch of rainfall was reported in Ebensburg and Kittanning, according to the weather service.

Weather service officials said the thunderstorm produced only high straight-line winds that toppled numerous trees, but it did not spawn any tornados.

In Seward, the storm toppled a circus tent, injuring five, one seriously.

According to reports, the Lewis and Clark Circus was doing a fundraising performance for the Seward Volunteer Fire Co. when a strong gust of wind blew over the canvas big top around 5:30 p.m. One person suffered a serious head injury was intensive care Thursday night.

Elsewhere, the extended outage forced businesses, such as Indiana Mall, to close early.

Two of its anchor stores, however, were able to remain open because they are on a different electrical circuit, said mall manager Sherry Renosky.

Some Indiana restaurants and taverns, meanwhile, remained open until nightfall, serving customers by candle- and lantern-light. Staff had to calculate tabs the old-fashioned way -- by hand.

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