Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Strong weekend storms deliver outages, high water in county

by on August 04, 2014 11:00 AM

More than 4,800 homes and businesses in Indiana County lost electric service Sunday as strong storms popped up in the region.

The most extensive blackout began about 1 p.m. when a power line fell on Philadelphia Street at Rex Avenue and an underground cable failed near the Penelec substation along East Pike, a utility spokesman said.

Those two incidents, serving the same circuit, left 3,300 Penelec customers without service.

“By 3 p.m. we had all but 200 of those customers restored, and service to the remaining customers was restored by 8 p.m.,” spokesman Bill Uhrig said.

The failure disrupted service to the REA Energy system, leaving about 1,300 members north of Indiana in White and Rayne townships and the Ernest and Creekside areas without power. The REA circuit was restored in just eight minutes, said business development manager Chad Carrick.

At the same time, a transformer failed in Homer City Borough and blacked out about 270 Penelec customers in the borough and nearby Center Township. Uhrig said crews had power back to most of them by 3:30 p.m., and a final handful of customers were restored by 5 p.m.

Uhrig said a connection between the major outage in Indiana and the strong weather was unconfirmed.

“The exact cause is under investigation. It did happen about the time a storm went through, but we are taking a deeper look at the cause of that outage,” he said.

Elsewhere in the county, Penelec experienced “some sporadic outages due to the storm, because of distribution transformers failing,” Uhrig said.

As random as the electric system problems were the rainfall amounts throughout the county.

“It was a catch-as-catch-can kind of thing,” according to meteorologist Lee Hendricks at the National Weather Service office in Pittsburgh. “Some areas got hit pretty well, and many areas didn’t get very much at all. We had some heavy downpours in areas we were concerned with, so we had a flood warning for Indiana County on Saturday night.”

The weather service’s co-op observers reported 1.4 inches of rain at the Conemaugh Dam and 1.34 inches at the Pennsylvania-American Water Company pump station along Two Lick Creek for the 24 hours ending Sunday morning.

The water company this morning measured 0.99 inch of rain since Sunday morning. National Weather Service observers checked in this morning with readings of exactly 1 inch at the Jimmy Stewart Airport, and with 1.55 inches in Creekside, Hendricks said.

Elsewhere in western Pennsylvania, an elderly woman had to be rescued from her car when a roadway flooded, while a lightning strike was blamed for shutting down a church organ as severe storms swept through the Pittsburgh area.

The woman had to be rescued when water reached the door handles of her car at an intersection in Monroeville, just before 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

In Mount Lebanon, lightning hit St. Bernard Church, shutting down the building’s pipe organ during 9 a.m. Mass. The Catholic church used a piano at its 11 a.m. service.

The National Weather Service says the storm dropped as much as 2 inches of rain on some areas as it moved through the area, causing reports of minor flooding in several areas in and around the city.

PHOTO:  Indiana firefighters and Peoples Natural Gas company workers responded when an electric wire snapped Sunday along Philadelphia Street at Rex Avenue, and sparks ignited gas that was leaking from a pipeline. Indiana Borough police monitored the scene and blocked off traffic while the fire was burning. (James J. Nestor/Gazette photo)

Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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