Strong storms leave thousands without power; Some roads remain closed

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PITTSBURGH —

Pittsburgh and its southern suburbs cleaned up from flash flooding caused by heavy morning rains Wednesday, but a new round of late afternoon and evening storms left tens of thousands without power.

About 22,000 Duquesne Light customers have no power as of 9 a.m. Thursday, spokesman Joey Vallarian said. He had no estimate of when power would be restored.

FirstEnergy's West Penn Power reported about 11,000 customers without power at 10 a.m.

Allegheny County roads that remain closed as of 6:30 a.m. include Mt. Nebo Road in Ohio Township and Route 3028 in Collier Township, PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said.

In Beaver County, road closures include Routes 3023 and 151 in Independence, Service Creek Road in Hopewell, Mercer Road in Franklin Township and Chapel Road in Center, Cowan said.    

Despite widespread Wednesday morning flash flooding that damaged homes and businesses and stranded some motorists following heavy rain in Pittsburgh and its suburbs, city and Allegheny County officials reported no fatalities or serious injuries.

The hardest-hit areas appeared to be the Route 51 corridor through the south part of the city and into the suburbs. Nearby areas, including Castle Shannon, Baldwin and Bridgeville, had some roads washed out and, as creeks overflowed onto low-lying areas, others were left caked in mud or littered with the occasional dead fish.

Three inches of rain or more fell in some areas Wednesday morning at the rate of 1-2 inches per hour. The saturated ground prompted emergency officials to warn drivers to avoid roads that flooded in the morning and to abide by barricades later in the day with more storms forecast.

Besides roads being closed as a precaution, others were impassable due to damage or debris, including a long stretch of Route 51 and Banksville Road, another key artery into the city's southern suburbs.

"Even if the water recedes, the roadways are gone," Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss said, noting that some portions of both roads washed away.

During the worst of the morning flooding, Huss said the city's swift-water rescue teams were responding to "several emergency and life-threatening situations." Once the rains ended by late morning, Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs confirmed there were no deaths or serious injuries.

Elizabeth Borough, a few miles farther south of the city, was one of several communities to declare an emergency due to the morning flooding. At least two residential streets there were washed away, a shelter was opened for stranded residents and the American Red Cross and Salvation Army helped those whose homes were damaged or couldn't be reached due to road issues.

Channel 11's Cara Sapida reported that a day care facility in McDonald had to be evacuated. She said about 18 children were taken out of the day care. Sapida talked to a father whose child was inside the day care and described the scene as "chaotic."

Meanwhile, several businesses and homeowners in Bridgeville were dealing with severe flood damage. Channel 11's Jodine Costanzo talked with multiple people who were affected by the flooding.

A North Huntingdon home was struck by lightning Wednesday morning at approximately 8 a.m. The owner of the Carmichaels Circle home told Channel 11 News that the damage was estimated at more than $100,000.

An Elizabeth Township home also suffered serious damage Wednesday. The Shaffer Avenue homeowner told Channel 11 News that water ran off a nearby hillside and into the home. They said there was 3-4 feet of water in the basement.

A West Mifflin homeowner said creek water rose and came pouring off a wall in his backyard.

"Basically, this is a 6-foot wall and the water had to have been at least 8-feet. It was going up and over like a waterfall," said Dwayne Walsh.

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