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Weather takes out power, closes Route 356 Thursday morning

Butler County dispatch received 35 calls about downed trees or power lines from around 7 p.m. to a little after 10 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17.

The damage prompted road closures, affected schools and left more than 900 Butler County customers of First Energy and Central Electric Cooperative without power Thursday morning.

Tim Cermak, a meteorologist with National Weather Service Pittsburgh, said the service recorded winds of upward of 50 miles per hour at Pittsburgh International Airport. Although the service issued a tornado watch for Western Pennsylvania last night, there were no reports of any touching down.

“In general, a lot of reports of upper 40- to 50-mile per hour winds,” Cermak said. “I wouldn't be surprised if winds were stronger than that.”

The damage to trees and power lines in the region, however, demonstrates the strength of the winds.

Route 356 was closed from Sarver Road to Winfield Road through Thursday morning, according to the Saxonburg Volunteer Fire Company. Additionally, Hannahstown Road in Jefferson Township was closed between Route 356 and Fisher Road.

According to Christopher Dean, Saxonburg fire chief, the borough took a pounding from the winds Wednesday night.

“We had approximately 23 calls last night for our response area,” Dean said. “Those calls were either ‘trees down’ or ‘wires down’ calls.”

While no injuries were reported in Saxonburg, Dean said SVFC did have to rescue motorists from vehicles that were crushed by fallen trees.

“It was as simple as cutting the tree up to get the tree off the car,” Dean said.

The flooding prompted administrators of Knoch School District and St. Luke Lutheran School to close school for the day, and Freeport Area School District operated on a two-hour delay.

More rain

Cermak said the rainfall Wednesday night into Thursday morning was up to three-quarters of an inch in the most affected areas, which is a result of the weather system moving through the region quickly.

He also said the amount of moisture in the atmosphere on April 3 was the highest for that date on record, and no other date this month has reached the heights of that day.

“We may not necessarily see rain more often, but the rainfalls this April have been on the heavier side. It's an active pattern,” he said. “It's a combination of an active pattern and bad luck, I would say.”

Despite the rough weather of Wednesday night, the outlook for the weekend is a bit drier, according to Cermak.

“Looks like we have a dry weekend coming up, and our outlook is a little more back to normal,” he said. “Over the next seven days, there is less moisture.”

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