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Fun turns tragic in PA


"I've never seen anything like this."

—Guy Costa

A day of fun turned to trauma for thousands of children at a suburban Pittsburgh amusement park Friday night when a sudden deadly storm swept through.

Many parents were injured as they shielded their children from 80-mph winds that tore across Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, PA, turning building debris, park signs, and tree limbs into deadly missiles. Hail hammered down for 30 minutes, taking people by surprise since the sun was peeking through the clouds only minutes earlier.

Thousands of children and parents sprinted for shelter.

By Saturday park employees were cleaning up, bringing rakes and brooms and sweeping up debris throughout the 40-acre, 103-year-old park.

According to the National Weather Service, the storm was not a tornado, though a tornado warning was issued before the storm struck at 7 p.m. Friday evening. The storm ripped up trees and damaged homes throughout the Pittsburgh area. Emergency officials spent Saturday surveying damage from the air and with ground teams.

In addition to damage in Pittsburgh and West Mifflin, homes and businesses were hit in Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Munhall, Wilkinsburg, and Homestead. Guy Costa, director of the public works department in Pittsburgh, said, "I've never seen anything like this."

Ray Bodnar, mayor of Munhall, who declared state of emergency following the storm Friday night, reported many of the town's oldest trees were snapped off, and said at least one car had been swept into a nearby creek.

High winds and large hail were also reported throughout central Pennsylvania.

Most of the storm-related injuries occurred at Kennywood Park. More than 45 people were hurt. Twelve children were admitted to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. One ride's roof collapsed, killing a 30-year-old woman. The ride, called "The Whip," was one of the oldest rides in the park.

According to Kennywood spokesperson Mary Lou Rosemeyer, the park has a storm emergency plan that is reviewed on a regular basis. The park's major rides were shut down during the storm but The Whip was still operating because it can run in the rain.

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