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The top of the Civil War monument outside Mercer County Courthouse lies on the ground after it was damaged Saturday during a windstorm.

Screaming gale-force winds clocked as high as 60 mph clobbered the area Saturday afternoon in a storm that left over 25,500 Penn Power customers in Mercer County without electricity.

The fierce storm, which hit around 3 p.m., left behind downed power lines and trees throughout the county. It appears the storm didn’t drop huge amounts of rain but ferocious winds caused havoc for emergency crews.

The winds toppled numerous trees and damaged a Civil War monument outside the Mercer County Courthouse along Pitt and East Market streets.


A car remains beneath a fallen tree Saturday on Yahres Drive in Hermitage after a windstorm that sliced through Mercer County.

Multiple bands of fierce winds struck the area after the original storm but they weren’t quite as strong. Still, it slowed utility repairs.

3 cars 1 tree

A tree, fallen in a windstorm Saturday, damaged three vehicles along Yahres Road in Sharon.

“When we have sustained winds of 45 miles an hour we can’t safely put crews up in bucket trucks,’’ said Lauren Siburkis, a Penn Power representative.

Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport’s weather station recorded wind gusts of 60 mph with steady winds at times averaging 45 mph. This meets the U.S. National Weather Service’s definition of gale force, a category that covers winds with surface speeds between 39 to 54 mph.

Mercer County Public Safety Department said the storm blanketed the area but the worst seemed to be in the western region. It wasn’t immediately known if any injuries were reported.

The power outages affected traffic lights throughout the Shenango Valley with the Hermitage Fire Department aiding the city’s police force in traffic control.

The winds toppled numerous trees and damaged a Civil War monument outside the Mercer County Courthouse along Pitt and East Market streets.

Greenville had to block off a section of West Main Street as a fallen power line stretched across the road just before the West Salem Township border.

Bob Fiscus, Sharon’s city manager and fire chief, found himself a victim of the storm. A huge tree toppled into his driveway severely damaging three vehicles nearby.

A woman in one of the vehicles was trapped for a short time but was extricated by family.

Fiscus said his property sustained minor damage, with the storm pulling down a light pole.

Fiscus began driving home from an event in West Virginia just as the storm unloaded in Sharon. He was constantly talking with Sharon’s fire, police and road departments from his car.

Starting at 3 p.m. Saturday going through the night, Sharon Fire Department responded to about 25 calls, Fiscus said.

“We’ve called out extra personnel,’’ Fiscus said. “We’re using an operational plan on how to systematically tackle things and get roads and other areas cleaned up. But our peoples’ safety is the No. 1 priority in this work.’’

The city was partnering private contractors to cut up downed trees, he added.

By 8:30 p.m. Penn Power had cut customer outages down to 11,800.

Repair work could stretch into Monday before all Penn Power customers will have their power restored, said Todd Meyers, a representative for FirstEnergy, Penn Power’s parent company.

The utility called up to 75 private contract line workers from Philadelphia and more from the greater Harrisburg area, Meyers said.

“That’s a lot of line workers and lots of equipment,’’ he said.

The power outages affected traffic lights throughout the Shenango Valley, forcing the Hermitage Fire Department to use generators for traffic control.

Herald Staff Writer Melissa Klaric contributed to this story.

NOTE: This article was edited March 27 to clarify that the storm occurred Saturday.

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