Cyclist offers firsthand account of powerful storm
Patrick Yorio, of Pittsburgh, was inside the River’s Edge Cafe on the banks of the Youghiogheny River with his three children Wednesday when a powerful storm swept through Confluence Borough.
He and others could see — and hear — evidence of large trees being uprooted outside. One, which he identified as a “very old” and very large sycamore tree, came crashing down in the water, reaching about a third of the way across the river.
Yorio said it was chaos inside the cafe. People talked nervously, trying to figure out where to go or what to do next. Yorio’s children were crying. His youngest was huddled in a corner.
“When you looked outside and got a visual of the power of the wind, that’s when you got scared,” he said.
Yorio said he saw no swirling wind or visual evidence of a tornado, outside of scattered trees and hanging wires. The sides of homes were plastered with leaves, as if someone had glued them to the siding, he said. The ground was saturated with several inches of water.
National Weather Service meteorologist John LaCorte said he believes the damage in Confluence was the result of microburst, a column of sinking air in the midst of a thunderstorm, not a tornado.
As a thunderstorm develops, water droplets and hailstones are suspended within the updraft.
“Sometimes an updraft is so strong it suspends large amounts of these droplets and hailstones in the upper portions of the thunderstorm,” states the weather service’s website.
The updraft eventually weakens and becomes incapable of holding the large amount of rain or hail.
“As a result, the core plummets to the ground,” the website states. “As it hits the ground it spreads out in all directions. The location in which the microburst first hits the ground experiences the highest winds and greatest damage.”
LaCorte compared a microburst to dropping a glass full of water on a house of cards.
No injuries have been reported from the storm, but hundreds were still without power Thursday afternoon.
Yorio and his family, who biked to Confluence earlier in the day, returned home after a Cranberry Township man offered to give him a ride to his car in Ohiopyle.
“It was a very violent storm and a really intense situation for a lot of people,” he said. “I’m surprised that no one got hurt.”