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Top 10 WFO Pittsburgh Weather Stories/Events of the Decade (2000-2009)

1.     September 2004 flooding (Hurricanes Frances and Ivan)

Parkway East Inbound

Parkway East Inbound

Oakdale, PA

Oakdale, PA

Starting on September 8th, widespread flooding occurred as the remnants of Hurricane Frances moved into the Ohio River valley.  Rainfall totals ranged from 2-4 inches in northern West Virginia and western Pennsylvania to 3-8 inches in eastern Ohio.. Numerous roads were flooded as creeks and rivers rose, some to record levels. As bad as the flooding was with Frances, it served as a precursor to the record flooding that occurred just a week later, when the remnants of Hurricane Ivan tracked along the Appalachian Mountains from September 16th to the 18th. With Ivan, the highest totals fell in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, with some locations receiving as much as 9 inches of rain. Pittsburgh set its record for greatest daily precipitation on the 17th, receiving 5.95 inches for the calendar day. Periods of heavy rainfall during this time also exacerbated the flood situation.  This beat a record that had only stood for 9 days, as 3.60 inches of rain fell on the 8th with Hurricane Frances. The previous record has been set with the remnants of a hurricane in 1888.  Not surprisingly, the yearly precipitation record for Pittsburgh was also set in 2004, with the airport receiving 57.43 inches that year. The previous record was 52.24 inches in 1990.


2.     May 31, 2002 severe weather (Kennywood Macroburst)

Kennywood Park

Kennywood Park

Kennywood Park

Kennywood Park

Although many severe weather reports were received this day, the most significant severe weather came from a macroburst that roared across eastern Allegheny and extreme western Westmoreland counties during the early evening hours.   This macroburst produced an approximately 10-mile long path of damage from the straight-line winds, which were estimated as high as 105 MPH. The macroburst damage path originated in the Homestead area of eastern Allegheny County, continued across the Monongahela River into the towns of McKeesport and North Versailles, and weakened as it crossed into Westmoreland County.   The maximum width of this macroburst was estimated at 3 miles as it traveled through the Munhall area. The highest concentrated area of damage extended from the Whitaker area to West Mifflin, where major damage occurred at the Kennywood Amusement Park.   A large wooden pavilion which housed the "Whip" ride collapsed. As the pavilion collapsed it killed one person and injured 47 others. Almost 100,000 people lost power across eastern Allegheny County and Westmoreland County.    


3.     November 10, 2002 severe weather (Veterans Day Outbreak)  

Clark, PA

Clark, PA

During the Veterans Day Outbreak, 83 tornadoes hit 17 states between the late afternoon hours of November 9 and the early morning hours of November 11. The easternmost of these tornadoes was an F2 tornado east of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania around 8pm. The tornado traveled northeast at 50 mph, crossed Route 18, then ripped into Clark.   It crossed Shenango River Lake and tracked to New Hamburg. The tornado path was 7 miles long, about 500 yards wide at its maximum, in the town of Clark. Maximum winds were estimated at 155 mph. The majority of damage and all injuries occurred in Clark. Fifteen homes were completely destroyed, with another 42 damaged. One business was destroyed, with another suffering major damage. There was one fatality and 19 injuries with this storm. 


4.     September 14, 2008 high winds (Hurricane Ike)

Hurricane Ike was estimated to be the 3rd costliest U.S. Atlantic hurricane, rating only behind Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew. A swath of destruction extended from the Gulf Coast all the way into Canada. While the remnants of Hurricane Ike brought little precipitation locally, high winds caused widespread damage across the region. Although the Zanesville airport only had a peak wind gust of 44 mph, the Wheeling airport reported a 59 mph wind gust.    The strongest wind gusts locally occurred in western Pennsylvania, with Allegheny County airport reporting 59 mph, Jefferson County airport recording 61 mph, and Beaver County airport receiving an 81 mph wind gust. Numerous trees and power lines were blown down across all counties. 


5.     February 16-18, 2003 snow storm

A massive, slow-moving snow storm began shortly after midnight on the 16th, producing heavy snow until departing on the 18th. This was the tenth heaviest snowstorm for Pittsburgh, which received 15.1 inches of snow from 3 AM on 16th to 7 AM on 18th, but no location in the region was spared. Some other snow totals from western Pennsylvania included 40 inches at Champion in Westmoreland County, 24 inches at Waynesburg in Greene County, 13 inches at Creekside in Indiana County, and 9 inches at Slippery Rock in Butler County.   In eastern Ohio, the highest snow totals included 30 inches in Monroe County, 25 inches in Muskingum, 18 inches in Jefferson, and 12 inches in Tuscarawas County. In northern West Virginia, Terra Alta in Preston County received 40 inches, Canaan Valley in Tucker County received 28 inches, and Hundred in Wetzel County received 30 inches. In Garrett County, snow totals reached as high as 48 inches. 



6.     February 18-19, 2000 flooding

Widespread heavy rains between 2.0 and 3.0 inches fell across southwest Pennsylvania on February 18th. This rain fell onto ground that was already nearly saturated from heavy rainfall a few days earlier. These conditions produced moderate flash flooding across the southwest corner of the state starting late on the 18th and continued into the 19th. However, the heaviest rainfall during this event occurred over the headwaters of the Monongahela River in northern West Virginia, where widespread rainfall exceeding 3.0 inches was recorded.   This produced major river flooding downstream along the Monongahela River towards Pittsburgh. This rain event also produced minor flooding along the Youghiogheny River. In response to the river flooding, the Governor of Pennsylvania declared a disaster emergency for four counties (Allegheny, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland) in southwest Pennsylvania. In Pittsburgh, the Ohio River at the Point crested at 23.7 feet, just below the flood stage of 25 feet. This forced the closure of the Mon Parking Wharf, Point State Park, and the 10th Street Bypass.


7.     November 12, 2003 severe weather

Several reports of trees and power lines blown down were received during the evening across eastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania with a cold front that moved through the area. The most significant event occurred when an F2 tornado touched down near May Rd just off Route 52 southwest of New Philadelphia in Tuscarawas County. It moved east northeast at 45 mph, damaging several homes along Crooked Run Rd. Several homes had significant damage, with a few garages completely destroyed. Many trees and power lines were downed. The tornado went across Interstate 77 and into New Philadelphia, where 12 homes had scattered damage. Crooked Run Rd had the most significant damage.    The estimated path length was 3.5 miles, with a path width of 175 yards and maximum winds estimated at 120 mph. In addition, a microburst, with an estimated wind of 60 mph, struck near Atwood Lake, producing a swath of damage along Menlo Drive off Route 542 in Carroll County. The microburst was 200 yards long and 50 yards wide. Numerous tall pine trees were snapped. A few fell onto houses and sheds. 


8.     August 9, 2007 flash flooding

Three separate mesoscale convective systems moved across the Pittsburgh forecast area during the afternoon and evening hours. The most widespread issue with these systems was the flash flooding that they produced. Flash flooding was reported in Carroll, Columbiana, and Tuscarawas Counties in Ohio; Allegheny, Beaver, Fayette, Indiana, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties in Pennsylvania; and Tucker County in West Virginia.   The most significant flooding occurred in the Millvale area and much of the North Hills area of Pittsburgh as Girtys Run came out of its banks. Over 900 homes were affected by the flooding as well as over 200 businesses. Infrasturcture owned by local municipalities sustained over 4 million dollars in damage. However, widespread wind damage also occurred, along with an F0 tornado that touched down in the West End of Pittsburgh, causing structural damage to a few homes and buildings.   



9.     December 1, 2006 severe weather

A rare case of severe weather in December brought wind, hail, and a tornado to the Pittsburgh forecast area. High winds brought down trees and power lines across much of the region. Nickel sized hail was reported in Punxsutawney. The storms also brought what it believed to be the only December tornado in the history of the Pittsburgh office.   A weak F1 tornado touched down in Greensburg at 11:40 AM about one quarter mile south of Greensburg Hospital. The tornado was only briefly on the ground for about 100 yards in Greensburg with F1 damage to trees, one house, and an automobile. The tornado then lifted and skipped across Westmoreland county producing F0 damage to trees and a few out buildings. The tornado generally followed Route 119 through Crabtree before finally lifting near New Alexandria.


10.       January 2003 prolonged cold weather  

Although January 2010 has started off as a cold month, with 12 consecutive days below freezing, January 2003 started out with an even longer stretch of cold weather. After several days of temperatures in the 30s and 40s to start the month, January 10th marked the last day of above freezing weather for some time. The mercury did not climb back to 32 degrees until January 29th, marking 18 days without an above freezing temperature.   This is the 5th longest streak of below freezing days on record in Pittsburgh. During the 18 day stretch, low temperatures were in the single digits 7 times, with the coldest reading of -4 occurring on the 27th. A few warm days at the beginning of the month kept the monthly average higher, resulting in January 2003 ranking as "only" the 11th coldest January in 140 years.


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