A close-up look at the lightning damage in the IHM church dome

Cary Toaso, a photojournalist and satellite truck operator with WTAE-TV, just shared some amazing photographs with us of the inside of the very top section of the dome of the Immaculate Heart of Mary church, where the lightning hit on Tuesday.  These photographs were taken by WTAE-TV chief photographer TJ Haught.

The lightning hit the structure that sits atop the largest dome, so high up that it’s not easily visible from the ground. The domes are wood, covered with copper sheathing, so most of the damage was on the inside.

The structure is accessed by a wooden ladder.

Here’s the hole where the lightning struck, and the charred timbers.

A closeup of the hole, and the torn copper sheathing.

A closeup of the burnt timbers.  The timbers are over a hundred years old.

Rubble on the floor.  The photo is blurry because the space is small and dark.

Two views of the ladder, looking down.  The firefighters had to climb this ladder to extinguish the fire.  The arched openings are the ones the firemen were standing in, as seen in our post from Tuesday.

A resident behind the church who witnessed the lightning strike told us that it happened around 4:30.  No one saw smoke until about 5:30.  Considering how long the fire smoldered before it was noticed, it’s amazing there wasn’t more damage.  It could have been a lot worse, and we’re very grateful that it wasn’t.

Lightning strikes the dome of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church

During a fierce electrical storm yesterday, lightning struck on and near Polish Hill multiple times.  It  hit in the backyard of a house on Paulowna Street, then a few second later hit the very top of the main dome of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.

Some time later, people noticed smoke coming from the dome.  Fire trucks from different stations around the area quickly responded.  Residents lined the street, watching anxiously.

Firemen climbed up into the structure on top of the dome to fight the fire.

Here’s what it looked like from further away. (Photo by Carlea Cannon)

Slightly earlier, lightning also struck near the Iron city Brewery, knocking out a transformer by the Quick Stop on Liberty Avenue.  A photographer in the Steel Tower happened to get a picture of this strike (below).  The church dome is off to the right — click on the image to see it larger.

(Photo by Tim Betler, from Pittsburgh Magazine)

Read the Post-Gazette article about the lightning strike, or a Tribune-Review article that mentions the church, along with other storm damage around the area.

Three-car crash on Brereton Street, no serious injuries

A three-car crash on Brereton Street, just above 30th Street, totaled one car, badly damaged another, and caused minor damage to a third.  We don’t know much more at this point other than the young man driving a JeepTracker apparently caused the accident; he was taken to the hospital with a shoulder injury.  There were no other injuries.  Two cars ended up on the sidewalk in front of Synergy Bodyworks, one was struck so hard that it spun around and the rear end was destroyed.   Now there’s a lot of glass on the sidewalk, and lots to talk about at the polling place.

(Top photo:  from Facebook; photographer unknown– please contact us so we can credit you!  Bottom photo by Josiah Parkinson)


The Department of Public Works today will be teaming up with contractors to “blitz” neighborhoods in snow removal efforts.

Approximately 25 pieces of equipment will be in each neighborhood during these “blitzes.” This will result in periodic street closures and rolling closures.

The PBP along with the PANG (Pennsylvania Air National Guard) will assist with the street closures during the period of snow removal.

During this task of clean up we are asking the public for their continued patience in our efforts to make streets safer for travel.

Nominate Pittsburgh!

Image attributed to Virginia Montanez

Did you know that Google recently opened offices here in Pittsburgh? Isn’t that wonderful?

Google is launching a test in just a few markets to install ultra high speed intenet access. Form their site —

Our networks will deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today, over 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We’ll offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.

Now, that’s fast! The company is asking for your input in the form of nominations for your community. You may also provide a nomination for the municipality in which you live. You can fill out your nomination here. Google is asking for information about your current service, so be prepared with information about your download and upload speeds. Google will be collecting this information through March 26, 2010.

Prevailing Wage Bill Public Hearing

Some of the residents on Polish Hill have been following the debate on the Prevailing Wage Bill.

The Prevailing Wage bill will be discussed at a public hearing 10:00 am on Monday, January 25th in City Council Chambers. City council Chambers are on the 5th floor of the City-County building, located at 414 Grant Street.

There are a lot of issues surrounding this bill. The PHCA wishes only that our constituents be apprised of issues that arise in our city and that you are informed of dates for public hearings on these issues.

PW&SA advisory

From the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority —

Please be advised:
There is a 12-inch water main break in Penn Avenue in Polish Hill. Residents between 29th Street and 30th Street may experience low pressure and possible interruption of service. Repairs are expected to be complete by 2:00pm.


State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) announced today that Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation, on behalf of the Pittsburgh Green Innovators project, will receive over $2.4 million in grants and low-interest state loans for renewable energy installations and rehabilitation.

“As “green” moves from buzzword to market reality, Pittsburgh can continue to be a national leader toward a sustainable future, an era of energy conservation and energy innovation,” Ferlo said. “State funding is a critical tool that provides these projects a much needed boost to help us shift toward better, cleaner energy use.”

Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation, a key stakeholder in the Pittsburgh Green Innovators project, will receive a $2 million grant to assist with the installation of alternative energy technologies and a $493,810 low-interest state loan for the purchase and installation of a geothermal system, wind turbine and wind mill at the former Connelley Trade School facility.

The building, which was purchased from the School District of Pittsburgh, will become a “living lab” designed for technology incubation, demonstration, monitoring and experimentation as well as be home to educational and entrepreneurial ventures that grow companies with innovative solutions and services for the green marketplace. The campus will house a collaborative research effort among Penn State University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University.

The funds were awarded during a meeting of the Commonwealth Finance Agency board under the Renewable Energy program.

“I applaud the Commonwealth Finance Agency for recognizing the benefit of renewable energy projects on communities, businesses and education,” Ferlo said.

Mayor to grant all G-20 protest permits

With the G-20 Summit fast approaching, it is good to know that some issues are being addressed –

The mayor also announced the city will be granting permits to protest groups citywide. That includes areas that had been proposed in Point State Park, the North Side, the Strip District, the South Side and a march to Downtown from Oakland. Read the entire Post Gazette article

Not all preparations are coming from city government, however. The Mattress Factory has launched a new website where residents can share information about their favorite Pittsburgh attractions. During the week of the G20 Summit, the website will include live feeds that can be updated by anyone with observations and news about happenings in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Summit 2009, with much the same positive message, was also recently launched. Here, visitors can find additional information about where to stay, transportation and attractions.

The Oakland Business Improvement District has great practical advice about what to expect during the week of September 21. There’s a lot of good information on their page, definitely check it out.

Onorato Announces $4.4 Million in Stimulus Funds for Sewer Repair Projects

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato today announced $4.4 million in funding for 15 municipalities to make sewer system repairs identified as critical by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant-Recovery Program, part of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009.“This stimulus funding is allowing us to repair critically damaged parts of the regional sewer system and protect our rivers and streams,” said Onorato. “Thanks to the funding, we are also creating or retaining more than 200 construction-related jobs in these tough economic times. This program will put people to work, repair vital infrastructure, reduce pollution, protect the
environment, and facilitate economic growth.”

The funds will be used to repair collapsed, defective or clogged sewers, as well as those that have significant stormwater inflow and infiltration. The repairs will help to eliminate sewage overflows into local rivers and streams during rain events and storms, thereby ensuring long-term compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.

The 15 projects were identified as areas in need of critical repair by comprehensive sewer televising, an effort to locate significant deficiencies in sewer systems. All of the selected projects had been previously submitted to the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development for funding. The projects had also been recommended by 3 Rivers Wet Weather due to their benefits relative to the EPA’s consent decree with the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) to upgrade the sewage systems serving 83 municipalities.

There are no Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection permitting requirements, therefore the projects can be engineered and put out for bid quickly.

The following municipalities and projects will receive funding:
Repairs to existing sanitary sewers and deteriorated manholes

Repairs to existing sanitary sewers and deteriorated manholes

Repairs and construction of access manholes

East McKeesport
Repairs to existing sanitary sewers

Elizabeth Borough
Construction and pipe relining involving sanitary/storm sewer separation and catch basins

Repairs to existing sanitary sewers and deteriorated manholes

McKees Rocks
Repairs to existing sanitary sewers and deteriorated manholes

Mt. Oliver
Repairs to deteriorated sanitary sewer manholes

North Braddock
Repairs to existing sanitary sewers and deteriorated manholes

Repairs to a 90-year-old sanitary sewer along Fifth Avenue

Repairs to existing sanitary sewers, deteriorated manholes, catch basins and inlets

Repairs to existing sanitary sewers

Repairs to existing sanitary sewers and deteriorated manholes

Installation and repairs to sanitary sewers, storm sewers, manholes, inlets and catch basins

Repairs to existing sanitary sewers and deteriorated manholes

Fifteen percent of the total funding will be placed in a Public Improvements Working Fund for project contingency and administration.