June 2, 2012

Ligonier Tornado, June 1, 2012



The lights blinked once. Twice. Three times.

The wind roared and the rain landed with a vengeance.

It was just before Laurel Mountain Park’s 6:00 p.m. pizza party fundraiser. Oh, they won’t get too many people out for the event, I thought, as I gathered an umbrella and headed toward the path leading to the Park shelter house. My husband, Monte, walked with me, but he didn’t consider it necessary to carry an umbrella.

During the party I learned there was a tornado in Ligonier Township, and that route 711 north was closed. No one had many details.

June certainly roared in like a lion, I thought.

The next morning I drove down route 30 to route 381, heading to the St. Michael Church summer festival. There were work crews on the road, which was reduced to one lane. I could see the problem: a tree had fallen, and an electric pole was snapped in half. Further down the road was evidence two more trees had fallen, at least one of which would have blocked the road earlier.

Later I spoke with my daughter, Sandy. She was taking her daughter to pick up a friend, and they were going to the mall. Just after turning onto route 711 north her husband Michael called to ask where she was, that the news had reported tornado activity outside of Ligonier.

“He asked how far out 711 we had to go. I said about six miles,” Sandy told me. It was only a light drizzle then. “He told me to be careful.”

After ending their conversation Sandy crested the hill by the Cairn’s pumpkin farm. “The sky got very black instantaneously,” Sandy said. “As soon as we rounded the bend by Ligonier Country Club we could see a wall of heavy rain—white—I could barely see beyond it.” She noted it seemed to come from the Donegal area.

She told her daughter that “something isn’t right about this. We’re going home.” She turned around at Barclay Crossroads. “By then it was raining so hard you could hardly see. Stuff flew off trees and was swirling in the air. Something hit the windshield—a rock, a tree branch, I have no idea.”

Whatever it was, it didn’t break the windshield.

“I drove as fast as I could even though we couldn’t see…It started to slow by Ruthie’s (restaurant).”

By the time she reached Laughlintown, the precipitation had become a light rain.

This morning I read the newspaper online: High winds tore the roof off the historic home in Ligonier where Tracey Pelesky lives with her husband and two young children. She told KDKA-TV that they ran to the basement for safety after hearing a whistling noise that sounded like a train…Pelesky said the damage to their house and vehicles can be repaired, but “It’s just your family is most important.”*

Another report stated that the National Weather Service confirmed that an F1 tornado was spawned by the storm.

F 1 is the second lowest ranking on the Fujita scale, which ranks the strength of tornados from F0, the weakest, to F5, the strongest. F1 tornados carry wind speeds of 86 to 110 mph. Officials said Friday’s tornado had wind speeds reaching 105 mph.

The tornado, 300 yards at its widest point, traveled 8 miles, starting in Oakwood Hills in Ligonier Township and heading northeast at 40 mph, ending in Fairfield Township at the Antiochian Village Camp and Conference Center.

In all, 75 homes in Ligonier Borough and Ligonier and Fairfield townships were damaged, but only two or three homes had major damage, said Dan Stevens, emergency management coordinator for the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety.**

In response the tornado, the Red Cross set up a shelter at the Ligonier Valley YMCA and assisted a displaced family of three who were displaced by the storm.***

It was only a little more than a year ago—March 23, 2011—that another tornado set down in Westmoreland County, albeit at the western end (Ligonier is at the eastern end of the county). There were no serious injuries in the Hempfield Township F2 tornado, but it destroyed thirty homes, damaged another sixty homes, and heavily damaged Hempfield High School.****


     I’m pleased that Sandy made it home safely. Later she drove out to view the damage from the tornado, and emailed me some to post (the tornado damaged house picture came from her).

So far, we’ve been lucky. No tornado on our community.  I hope our luck continues.



From Ligonier to Ligonier: Part I

Streaming Bear Video and Bear Stories

Hard Freeze Threatens Early Spring Blossoms

Get Well Cards Requested for Burn Victim

Carolyn’s Compositions Top Twelve Posts (April 2012)








  1. Thank God everyone was okay!

    Comment by Cynthia Lipsius — June 5, 2012 @ 10:45 am | Reply

  2. A time to remember no doubt! I am glad Sandy & Jordan are fine.

    Comment by An old friend — June 6, 2012 @ 3:39 pm | Reply

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