National Weather Service confirm 3 tornadoes in the region; researching another (2024)

The National Weather Service confirmed Saturday that an EF-0 tornado with winds of up to 70 mph struck the Harrison City area of Westmoreland County on Friday.

Teams were out Saturday in the daylight to gather data and evaluate the damage at four suspected tornado sites, said NWS meteorologist Lee Hendricks.

Three have been confirmed through various means and a fourth is suspected. Two were confirmed Friday based on photos and videos, the NWS said.

The NWS had reported the tornado in the Trafford area and in the Harrison City area of Penn Township shortly after 5 p.m Friday. based on Doppler radar readings, but had not been able to confirm whether that funnel cloud, later seen moving off to Delmont about 5:25 p.m., had touched down and caused any damage.

But on Saturday, an NWS survey team was able to confirm damage had occurred.

It was one of at least three tornadoes to hit the region in a short time Friday afternoon in Westmoreland, Allegheny and Washington counties.

In Penn Township, where wind sheared off treetops, downed branches and sent dumpster garbage swirling 100 feet skyward near the Municipal Complex, Emergency Management Coordinator Paul Wersing nevertheless was struck by the absence of serious damage.

Someone’s trampoline became airborne and was left crumpled, and a flag post was bent, but while a couple homes sustained exterior wind damage, no homes were destroyed and apparently no one was injured.

“If you had to order up a tornado just to see it, that would be the one,” Wersing said. “It could have been much worse.”

The NWS reported that the tornado tracked from near the Municipal Complex to the Greensburg-Jeannette Regional Airport, “creating a discontinuous path of minor tree and structural damage.”

Planes on the ground were apparently spared, Wersing said.

Westmoreland County Public Safety Director Bud Mertz said the storms point to the importance for people to sign up for mobile weather alerts to keep them safe from rapidly unfolding storms.

”We got lucky.”

Elsewhere, a tornado packing winds of 105 mph touched down in Pittsburgh’s Highland Park neighborhood, according to the National Weather Service.

The tornado that struck Highland Park about 4:40 p.m., causing damage around the Pittsburgh Zoo and Allegheny River Boulevard, was measured at an EF-1, said Rich Redmond, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The cell that struck Highland Park had been seen minutes before above Pittsburgh’s Troy Hill neighborhood, Redmond said. It also was seen in Aspinwall around UPMC St. Margaret hospital.

Hendricks said Saturday morning that teams were able to get a better look at the Highland Park tornado on radar.

Despite the intensity of the winds, damage reports consisted primarily of downed trees near Washington Boulevard in the area of the Highland Park Bridge and Stanton Heights.

The zoo reopened as usual Saturday, with crews continuing to clean up storm-related debris. A statement issued by spokeswoman Alex Cauley said viewing of some animals might be delayed, but she reiterated that animals were unharmed and patrons and staff who sheltered in place also were unhurt.

“The Zoo experienced multiple downed trees, several damaged fences, a power outage, and toppled objects, branches, and debris throughout the park,” the statement read. “A large tree fell on a vehicle in our parking lot. Buildings were not significantly damaged.

“Crews worked through the night to restore power and clear as many critical pathways as possible.”

The weather service confirmed that another tornado had touched down in the village of Elrama along the Monongahela River in northern Washington County shortly before 3 p.m., Redmond said. It received reports of damage from that tornado, which also may have caused damage in Lincoln Borough, Redmond said.

On Saturday, the NWS team found evidence of sporadic damage as the storm strengthened and weakened while progressing toward Elizabeth in Allegheny County.

“We are still trying to determine the maximum wind speed,” said meteorologist Matthew Kramar.

He said it appeared somewhat stronger than what was observed in Westmoreland County, with several homes losing roof shingles or siding, large trees damaged, a mobile home losing a porch roof and railings and a pool damaged.

The weather service is looking into a fourth possible tornado location in Lincoln Place.

“Tornadoes do skip — they’ll hit an area, lift up, and drop another tornado down,” Redmond said.

The NWS received yet another report of a tornado at the Allegheny County Airport, but there was no damage that would allow for an assessment, Kramar said Saturday. He said that its EF rank would be unknown.

Those who see damage are asked to report it to the National Weather Service online.

Saturday aftermath

Utility crews worked to restore electrical power to remaining customers without it.

As 0f 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Duquesne Light reported 764 customers still without power in the Pittsburgh area, according to its website; West Penn Power reported only scattered outages of fewer than 20 customers after showing about 300 customers in the Finleyville area and 118 near New Kensington were without power in the morning.

A flash flood warning for the northern half of Allegheny County, including Pittsburgh and Tarentum, was issued Saturday morning until 8:45 a.m.

Flooding was reported in Baldwin and Duquesne.

reported these closures:

Full video. Posted at about 5 pm today, May 17.

— Ryan Deto (@RyanDeto) May 17, 2024

Before Friday, Western Pennsylvania already had seen a dozen tornadoes this year, which is double the yearly average. Six of the tornadoes had come in May alone.

Friday brought that tally to nine.

The last time the region experienced such a large onslaught of twisters was in May 1985. There were 11 that month.

The tornadoes Friday came less than a week after an outburst of twisters south of Pittsburgh. Last Saturday, three tornadoes were confirmed: in Finleyville in Washington County, the New Salem area in Fayette County and Fike Run in Fayette County, according to the weather service.

Flash Flood Warning continues for Pittsburgh PA, Allison Park PA and Franklin Park PA until 8:45 AM EDT

— NWS Pittsburgh (@NWSPittsburgh) May 18, 2024

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a TribLive reporter covering news in New Kensington, Arnold and Plum. A Pittsburgh native and graduate of Penn State University's Schreyer Honors College, Brian has been with the Trib since December 2000. He can be reached at

National Weather Service confirm 3 tornadoes in the region; researching another (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Velia Krajcik

Last Updated:

Views: 6008

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Velia Krajcik

Birthday: 1996-07-27

Address: 520 Balistreri Mount, South Armand, OR 60528

Phone: +466880739437

Job: Future Retail Associate

Hobby: Polo, Scouting, Worldbuilding, Cosplaying, Photography, Rowing, Nordic skating

Introduction: My name is Velia Krajcik, I am a handsome, clean, lucky, gleaming, magnificent, proud, glorious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.