Tornado Skips by Water Treatment Plant

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PITTSTON TOWNSHIP -- The tornado Saturday barely missed a direct hit on a Pennsylvania American Water treatment plant in Luzerne County.

Workers were cleaning up the damage on Monday while also keeping the plant running.

The plant treats water for communities in northern Luzerne County. It's now surrounded by downed trees and lots of debris from the tornado that swept by.

For now, the hum of generators keeps this Pennsylvania American Water treatment plant running. Electricity went out Saturday afternoon, but the building near Moosic only went without power for two hours and it had nine hours' supply of water in its storage tanks.

"So even though we lost line power to the facility, we had the backup power to keep the plant operation, so at no time was the quality or the quantity of the water being produced in jeopardy," said manager of operations Traci Cross.

Cross says operations still run as scheduled two days after the storm, but those on duty Saturday had scary moments.

Trees near the plant were ripped up at their roots, and if you look at the tornado's path, you can see it just barely missed the Pennsylvania American Water building.

Winds of up to 120 miles an hour hurled a dumpster at the plant about 50 yards into the woods. The front windows at the plant's entrance blew outward when the tornado passed because of the sudden change in air pressure. And then there is a car owned by one of the plant workers.

"When the winds came through, this car, I believe was about eight feet to the left of where it is right now. The wind came through, picked it up, dropped it, and at that time, the windows obviously smashed out," said Cross.

Plant officials say workers inside had about a half hour warning that a severe storm might be coming.

They add that no one inside the plant was in danger, despite the tornado that passed by just a few yards away.

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