Mild showers and breezy winds are expected to remain in Blair County today and Thursday, while cleanup crews and residents address property damage and debris from Monday's storm and wait for power to be restored.
"By Friday, we'll start seeing more in the way of sunshine," Accuweather meteorologist Tom Kines said Tuesday. "That's probably the first day that the sun will make more than a cameo appearance."
Monday's storm, which began as a hurricane and caused catastrophic damage to coastal communities, generated winds locally that were strong enough to uproot and split numerous trees and break their branches.
Mirror photo by Kay Stephens
Russell Barton works on removing a fallen tree from his yard with the help of his neighbor, Joe Ratsky, on the 3000 block of Fourth Avenue.
By Tuesday morning, several roads were blocked by felled trees and at least 10,000 Blair County customers were without electricity, including about 8,000 served by Penelec and 2,000 more served by Valley Rural Electric Cooperative. As crews worked Tuesday to restore service, those numbers began dropping. Larger concentrations of outages were reported in Altoona and in Logan, Snyder and Antis townships.
Meteorologists said Tuesday that the storm's local wind speeds might have been as high as 65 mph, which wouldn't be unusual, in brief spurts, during a winter snowstorm.
"A lot of spots in the area had wind gusts close to 50 mph," Kines said. "And in the wintertime, we'll get storms with that strong of winds."
Meteorologist John LaCorte of the National Weather Service estimated Blair County's wind gusts in the range of 60 to 65 mph. Like Kines, he said that speed would not be unusual in the area.
"A lot of times, what we see here is brief," LaCorte said. "Storms come and go, but this storm was widespread and long-lived. That's why it was more noticeable."
"One of the things that made this storm impressive is the long duration," Kines said. "For 12 hours, the wind was howling. ... and it was raining. At times, the wind was bringing the rain down in sheets."
Monday night's winds were strong enough to split a large tree in front of Russell Barton's house at 3009 Fourth Ave., leaving jagged edges on the short trunk that remained in the ground. A few feet away on neighboring property, the storm uprooted a younger tree.
With a chain saw and help from neighbor Joe Ratsky, Barton spent Tuesday afternoon cutting the felled tree that went down between 8:30 and 9 p.m.
"There was just a big woosh," Barton said.
While local officials had warned area residents to be prepared for flooding, that proved to be a minor issue by Tuesday morning, even though the storm, according to Kines, brought a little more than 3 inches of rainfall to Blair County.
"Water-wise, we're in great shape. No flooding whatsoever," Blair County Emergency Management Agency Director Dan Boyles said.
Under normal conditions, 3 to 5 inches of rain would have caused problems, but because Blair County was very dry prior to the storm, the ground able "to drink up a lot of water," LaCorte said.
As for the storm-generated snowfall in Somerset County and West Virginia, Kines suggested skiers react with haste.
"That snow won't stick around for a long duration," he said. "The ground is still warm and it's going to be above freezing."
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.