Powerful storms move through Western Pa.; Power outages, downed trees reported

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PITTSBURGH - Utility companies have reported power outages and emergency crews have responded to reports of downed trees after a major storm system moved through western Pennsylvania overnight and headed east.

Severe Weather Team 11 chief meteorologist Stephen Cropper is warning that water may rise rapidly in streams and creeks, on roads and in urban areas. He said most areas in the Channel 11 viewing area have seen more than 1.25 inches of rain.

Flooding was reported Thursday morning at the intersection of Route 51 and Edgewood Avenue in Beechview, as well as Route 51 in Clairton.

Cropper reported that wind gusts from the storm reached more than 40 mph. Because of this, downed trees were reported throughout the area, including Mt. Royal Boulevard in Shaler Township, McCoy Road in Stowe Township, the 3400 block of Beechwood Boulevard in Squirrel Hill and the intersection of Baker, Route 51 in Overbrook and Butler streets in Highland Park.

West Penn Power officials said they had about 5,000 customers without power as Thursday morning. The majority of power outages were reported in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.

In addition, Duquesne Light officials reported about 750 customers were without power as of 1 p.m.

Cropper said that the strong storms consisted of two waves. The first started its west-to-east progression toward the Channel 11 News viewing area on Wednesday night. Fortunately, the worst of it arrived after midnight and dipped primarily south.

The second wave pushed through early Thursday morning, sticking around for the morning rush. The storm is not expected to fully advance eastward until Thursday afternoon. Cropper said some rainfall could persist throughout much of Thursday morning.

After flash flooding turned deadly nearly two years ago on Washington Boulevard in Highland Park, Pittsburgh officials said they prepared for anything.

Four people were killed in the floods on Washington Boulevard in August 2011, including a mother and her two young children.

Since then, emergency gates have been installed that will block traffic lanes when waters rise too high.

According to Pittsburgh Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski, the city's biggest concerns now that the storm has passed are flash flooding and downed trees and power lines.

It's anticipated that conditions will finally settle Thursday night, setting up a beautiful weekend. Daily high temperatures push 80 degrees throughout.

Stick with Channel 11 News and WPXI.com for the latest weather alert information.

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