a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Salmon with pistachio crust

By Scott Beveridge

Having been raised on Hamburger Helper, it took a trip a decade ago to America’s Northwest for me to discover salmon.

And, that it’s best eaten freshly cooked from the water and served on the sweet side.

That revelation arrived at a salmon bake in Juneau where the main course was served in a bourbon-molasses sauce. The clincher was an amazing salmon sandwich with apricot chutney spread at a restaurant in Hood River, Oregon.

Back here in Pittsburgh, a good fishmonger can be found at a number of locations with salmon that doesn’t taste fishy. Among the best are at the new Giant Eagle Market District in Robinson Township. This huge store is a destination in itself with prices ranging from those at Wal-mart to the finest gourmet supermarkets. (What its staff does with cheese is sinful)

That is where the ingredients were purchased today for this recipe for salmon with a pistachio crust:


2 large salmon fillets (about 2 pounds total)
½ pound or more of shelled salted pistachios
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
Zest of one Navel orange
1 1/3 cups of orange juice
A few drizzles of olive oil
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Nonstick cooking spray


Salt and pepper the fish and then marinate it in a cup of orange juice for an hour in the refrigerator

Pulse the nuts and orange zest in a food processor before adding the olive oil, brown sugar and the 1/3 cup of juice to make a paste.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the fillets on a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover the fish with the paste, pressing the mixture down with a spoon. Top with fresh cracked pepper. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Serves four.

Friday, February 26, 2010

That fishy smell

Stas Horency, right, and Jeff Karolski man the kitchen Friday at the fish fry at Holy Trinity Polish National Catholic Church in Canton Township, Pa. (Scott Beveridge photo)

A coworker walked past my desk this afternoon and said, "Whatever you are eating smells good. It's making me hungry."

"Oh that's me you smell," I replied. I had just returned from spending two hours at a Lenten fish fry at a Catholic church for a newspaper assignment, and felt as if "I had been rolled in batter and dropped in the fryer."

So fish fry is the cologne I wore at the office today.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Never mind the cat

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sapphire - quizzed by Cal U. students

The author known as Sapphire, center, poses with members of the Black Student Union at California University of Pennsylvania, from left, Ronald Taylor, Ashley Munoz-Briggs, Marquia Parnell and Melinda Quinerly. (Scott Beveridge photo/Cal U. backdrop)

CALIFORNIA, Pa. – The author and poet known as Sapphire fielded questions tonight from members of the Black Student Union at California University of Pennsylvania. Her novel, “Push,” about a physically and sexually abused, overweight black girl in 1980s Harlem has been adapted into the Oscar-nominated movie, “Precious.”

Q. What was the inspiration for the book?

A. My major inspiration was the experiences I had living in Harlem. I was just blown away by some of the lives of my students. I wanted to document them on paper.

Q. Was Precious a real person?

A. Precious is known as a composite character composed of many different people.

Q. Why suffer the entire book without a good ending?

A. That’s what you call reality. A lot of Hollywood stories are based on fantasy. You lose weight, find a husband and ride off into the sunset. I wanted the world to look at what happens to some segments of the population.

Q. Did you like the movie?

A. I was really emotionally drawn into the movie within the first few minutes. It was surprising, shocking. I also thought it was very beautifully done.

Q. Why the title “Push?”

A. In the book several scenes have the action word push, push. The first time it was used Precious was giving birth to her baby as a young teenager, and an angel, medic tells her to push. Again, she is so far behind her teacher resorts to telling her to push.

Q. Is everything in the movie true”

A. Everything in the book is true. Everything in the movie is not true.

Q. Did you think the movie would become a success?

A. I was thinking I would have to get on the phone and call my friends to fill the theater. I thought it would play a two-week run at a New York art-house.

Q. How are black people reacting to the story?

A. The portrayal of the mother and father, they find it problematic. It’s OK to read about it in the newspaper, but people don’t it fictionalized. They say, why can’t you write a more positive portrayal of the black family?

Q. Did you feel pain writing the book?

A. When you write about something, it’s not painful. The painful part is living it.

Q. What one message did you want to give?

A. The power of language and the ability of human beings to transform themselves through language, education is the message I wanted to give. Your education can change your life.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The old college try aboard a Harley

California University of Pennsylvania President Angelo Armenti Jr. and his wife, Barbara, pose in this publicity stunt to help sell raffle tickets for a 2010 Harley-Davidson Road King in the school's colors of red and black. The fundraiser to benefit student scholarships is sponsored by the Industrial Arts and Technology Education Alumni Society, with the winner determined by the May 3, 2010, 4-digit Pennsylvania Lottery drawing. More info: www.cal-ia-te-alumni.org (Photo: Cal U.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Downed trees add to flooding concerns

A downed tree at the foot of Power Street in Webster, Pa., after a storm two weeks ago dropped as much as 2 feet of snow on southwestern Pennsylvania. (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

Trees took the brunt of the big storm this month, as so many of them have been uprooted under the weight of the heavy snow and ice.

Many of them still are leaning across power lines, appearing as if another inch or two of fresh snow would lead to more outages. More than two weeks after Stormageddon, the roads are still like obstacle courses with tree braches sticking out of the snowplow mounds.

But the toppled birch, maple and weeping willow trees along the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers, which spill into the Ohio, are causing even greater concerns if a major flood develops during a quick thaw accompanied by rain. A river rushing with big trees would have devastating consequences on everything in their wake, and could clog and lead to worse flooding.

The US Army Corps of Engineers said Friday it is “fighting a flood” that has the potential of putting the Three Rivers in downtown Pittsburgh 25 feet of flood stage. It would be a record cresting along the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers. A perfect storm could be in the making with more than 50 inches of snow in the mountains and at least 7 ½ inches of rain in the snow pack.

High water is a concern as far downstream as St. Paul, Minn., where there is a 90 percent chance the Mississippi will flood because of severe winter weather, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported Friday.

“In many places, flooding is almost a sure bet, forecasters said, with a substantial possibility of severe or record levels,” the newspaper said.

The following are quotes reporters at the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa., gathered last week about the threat of high water:

"It's going to take a miracle to get rid of this snow without a flood," said Bill Drzal, a meteorologist and hydrologist for the Weather Service in Pittsburgh.

"We are praying for a slow warm-up, but there is so much water in the snow," said Jeff Yates, public safety director in Washington County.

“There is the potential it could be one of the worst,” said Jeff Hawk, corps spokesman in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Part dog, part man (genius)

(This video is the work of soxovici)

Warning: storm tripping hazard ahead

By Scott Beveridge

The photograph, above, illustrates how I found my car the morning after Stormageddon delivered this region 2 feet of snow, buried under white stuff and parked under a downed telephone line.

It was two weeks ago tomorrow. Removing the wire then was understandably low on everyone's priorities. There were old people here in Webster, Pa., who needed to be evacuated by their neighbors to places that hadn't lost their heat to the widespread power outages.

So, I waited a week to notify Verizon, which apparently owns the overhead telephone lines around here. Rather than wade through frustrating telephone prompts to reach a live voice at the utility, I sent the company an e-mail that listed my address and the nature of the problem.

My message since has been ignored, without so much as my receiving one of those automated computer-generated replies guaranteeing that my message would be given attention. It probably would be a waste of time to send the company another message, yet I will send another message.

Be warned Allegheny Power and Dominion Peoples that there is a dangerous tripping hazard at the entrance to my property when you next send representatives to read the meters before passing along your next bills. If either of your meter readers trip, fall and become injured, please ask your company's attorneys to contact the owner of this dangerous downed wire and sue it, rather than me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wishful thinking

Monday, February 15, 2010

A tip for keeping the plant and cat alive

Cat eats houseplants, originally uploaded by dlangsen.

A colleague at the newspaper seems to have been slightly annoyed by her plant-eating cats.

Seriously, who wants half-eaten spider plants and succulents, especially in the dead of winter when indoor gardens are supposed to help chase away the cabin-fever blues?

Christie Campbell shares her thoughts about plants and their ability to brighten winter moods this month in her column for Living Washington County magazine, a by-monthly publication of the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa.

In it, she cites a Dutch study that concluded companies could increase productivity by placing one large plant beside two employees sitting beside computers. Somehow this trick has the ability to reduce stress and cold outbreaks at the office.

Campbell, whose infectious laugh can cheer up the entire workplace, goes on to offer a valuable tip she discovered for keeping her house cats from munching away her plants and destroying the natural environment they add to her home.

“If you are troubled by cats, soak orange peels in water overnight,” she instructs. “The next day remove the peels and pour the water into a spray bottle. Spray your plants with this water because cats aren’t fond of citrus odors.”

It's a good idea right now to water and check my plants. The cat that was here last week, temporarily orphaned when a neighbor fled after Stormageddon killed the power for five days, has gone back home. I hope it didn't get hungry here for the parsley growing in a jar on the kitchen windowsill.

Meanwhile, the lights have been flickering again here in Webster as another bad storm bears down on southwestern Pennsylvania. Two inches of fresh snow have already fallen tonight. Meanwhile, five buildings collapsed this week under the weight of the nearly 2 feet of snow that fell a week ago during a disastrous storm.

This is especially depressing because here is the latest storm warning from The Weather Channel online:

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect. A significant winter storm or hazardous winter weather is occurring, imminent, or likely, and is a threat to life and property. Stay vigilant for severe weather.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stormageddon trouble drags into second week

An ambulance worker stands ready Sunday afternoon after a large chunk of the roof at Rostraver Ice Garden, Rostraver Township, Pa., collapsed between tournament games involving children from as far away as Canada. Everyone in the building has been safely accounted for, township police said.

By Scott Beveridge

BELLE VERNON, Pa. – It took the Rostraver Gardens to put Rostraver Township on the map after it was built in 1960s in southwestern Pennsylvania farm country.

In no time the local kids took ownership of the landmark - later renamed Rostraver Ice Garden - as most of its activities were designed with them in mind. It was always packed on figure skating nights at a time when few if anyone in the area paid attention to hockey.

Junior and high school students would sneak out back to make out and party, while others tried to impress with their skating skills. It was there that the Rostraver Fair Queen was crowned each summer, and she would make her ceremonial waves to the audience as she circled the arena. And each spring, it would be standing-room-only inside for the Belle Vernon Area High School commencements.

Some of us really thought we were special for having that building and its beautiful and large arched wooden beams supporting the wooden roof.

Eventually, the place went downhill as local interest in ice-skating declined, replaced by better television and the video gaming industry.

A retired banker, Jim Murphy, came along a couple decades ago and made a valiant effort to rejuvenate the place. He built Murph’s Pub with windows overlooking the arena, refocused activities on youth hockey and gave indoor football a chance. But, when I was last in there in 2008, the banquet room was in need of renovating and the place just seemed to have lost much of its appeal.

While running errands this afternoon, I glanced over at the business at Gallitin Road and Route 51 and wondered if that roof was built to withstand the 2 feet of heavy, wet snow we received last week in the disaster known as Stormageddon.

How could I have known then, that two hours later, I would receive a call about a roof collapse at the ice rink? Initial reports had as many as 25 kids being trapped in the banquet hall, news that would later prove inaccurate.

The arena was hosting a President’s Day tournament involving children between the ages of 9 and 12 from Canada, Allegheny County and Erie. One game had ended and another two teams were minutes away from taking the ice when about a third of the massive roof slowly began to fall to the floor.

Concession stand worker Tara Banasick was immediately credited for her heroism for rushing the children and parents out of the building and to safety.

This near-catastrophe surely will leave many teams scrambling to find a place to play out the remainder of their games. It also creates doubt as to whether Murphy will decide to rebuild the place that had become special to so many people.

For example, this comment almost immediately was posted under one of my photos over at Flickr after I posted it there tonight.

“I am so upset about this. I loved that rink. It's a sad end to a great old rink. Had the hardest ice in W.PA. Very bad day.”

Sadly, the collapsed rink is one more nightmare to accompany this storm. And, it seems there is no end on the horizon to the trouble it brought down on the region.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Give it with a heart or forget it

“It is not you but your radiance. It is that which you know not in yourself and can never know.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Love,” explaining why one person loves another.

By Amanda Gillooly

The last thing I wanted was to out myself as a hopeless romantic, but I’m stepping out of that closet to give a humble request to my friends – both single and married – this Valentine’s Day.

I knew I had to go public when a friend on bed rest sent out an APB asking for poems, pictures, quotes and lyrics that best articulate love. She can’t get out to purchase a gift or prepare a special evening out for her husband, so she asked for suggestions to include in something she is calling a Love Book.

And thanks to the “reply all” function of the Facebook messaging system, I began receiving responses from some of the fellow ladies on the mailing list. Their suggestions included quoting the band Lone Star, Canadian cliché Celine Dion and then most sadly 98 Degrees.

I lost all belief in romance when someone quoted the 98 Degrees' lyric, “You are my fire. My one desire,” and simultaneously understood why divorce rates are so high. That’s the best they got? First of all, I don’t know if the complexities of love can be examined in such rigid rhyme structure. Secondly, none of that stuff has any heart.

And that’s the problem with modern-day romance. I think: People are thinking about what love and romance SHOULD be, instead of feeling it. While I admit my credentials in matters of relationships could be reasonably questioned, my heart can’t.

I’m all heart, baby.

So as the romantics and the cynics line up on different sides of the Valentine’s Day debate, I’d like to see a little more heart from everybody. And I want to ask as humbly as I can that if you’re going to attempt to woo someone this holiday, please do it right. Love deserves better than boy-band ballads.

And you can do better than Shakespeare’s sonnets or anything by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. While everlasting, they’ve been overused. But at bottom, the poets have come closer to any in explaining the inner workings of the hearts of lovers – so don’t forsake the likes of Whitman and Keats and Cummings.

Cummings, for example, explained that “kisses are a better fate than wisdom.”

And remember to look past the poems to the men and women behind them – many of whom lived the romances they wrote about. Men like John Keats and women like Zelda Fitzgerald.

Keats wrote to his Fanny Brawne, “You have ravish'd me away by a Power I cannot resist - I cannot breathe without you.”

Fitzgerald wrote to her husband, “Scott -- there's nothing in all the world I want but you -- and your precious love -- All the material things are nothing. I'd just hate to live a sordid, colorless existence -- because you'd soon love me less -- and less -- and I'd do anything -- anything -- to keep your heart for my own -- I don't want to live -- I want to love first, and live incidentally.”

Those wordsmiths lived in an era when love letters were sometimes daily indulgences. And while the e-mail age has made faraway friends and long-lost lovers feel closer, the chapters of our romances have suffered from the brief and impersonal nature of text messages and Internet chat capabilities. If that is too dramatic, I’m confident you’ll agree that at least the history of our great modern love stories have been undermined.

I encourage you all – us all – to change that. Don’t just quote the ancients, and jot down the beatings of a dead poet’s heart. And if you must, at least add some sentiment of your own. It doesn’t have to be Keats. It doesn’t have to be Fitzgerald.

It just has to have heart. And yes, especially on Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spreading some love and less whine

A Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County worker, who declined to identify himself, prepares this morning to shut off the water to a house that is collapsing under the weight of snow and ice along Route 136 in Monongahela RD 3, Allegheny County, Pa.

By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – Catherine Piscitelli is one example of someone having enough smarts to leave her home when the utilities go dead during a hellish snowstorm.

Without cable television and electricity, she was staying with relatives yesterday when heavy snow and ice in the wake of Stormageddon caused her house to begin to collapse along Route 136 in Forward Township, Pa.

So maybe there are people who can be thankful that the utilities have been a little slow in finding enough help to return these expensive modern conveniences to the thousands of houses that became cold and dark amid this natural disaster.

While others still whine about their more-insignificant problems, I have been witnessing recent acts of kindness that have become few and far behind in the years preceding these nasty storm fronts that began Friday and continue to terrorize the Northeast.

Strangers actually are smiling and talking to each other in convenience stores because they don’t have televisions and the Internet at home to separate themselves from socializing.

My terrific neighbor and his son surprised me with the gift of shoveling out the foot of my snowplowed-in driveway the morning after the first storm left behind as many as 2 feet of snow. Another friend tonight told me the story of how a guy we know rescued some folks in his truck, only to have it break down, and now he is sick with a cold or flu from spending so much time outside.

Thankfully, my power was restored yesterday afternoon. And, Comcast has a crew imported from Ohio working right now in my tiny village in the frigid cold to rewire this community.

Meanwhile, fellow blogger Amanda Gillooly has a post to this blog ready for tomorrow with colorful musings about love and Valentine’s Day that falls on Sunday. That will be a welcomed relief from this nightmare at a time when we, here, can all use a little more loving and a lot less bitching.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowtorious Big drags on

By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – The power company finally arrived here today, five days after Stormageddon knocked out the power, and the orphaned cat and I are enjoying the electricity and heat.

Comcast, though, has yet to restore the cable television and Internet in the village of Webster in southwestern Pennsylvania, but we are not complaining.

People around here are experiencing far worse problems in this disaster that is still playing out as high winds are creating drifts and threatening to play more havoc on the utilities. The whiners around these parts who are still safe need to shut up at this point.

A house up Webster Hollow Road from mine burned to the ground last night. Police said no one was injured, and the cause of the blaze is still unknown. I suspect it had something to do with its occupants attempting to keep warm in this nightmare.

An hour or so ago my buddy who freelances for one of the local television stations called to say he heard a house a mile down a different road here is splitting apart under the weight of all this snow and ice.

Right now, I'm too exhausted to go outside in the bitter cold to report on that situation. I'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Power company arrives, four days after Stormageddon as scary new storm approaches

A National Weather Service map shown in a webinar today of the snowfall predictions for southwestern Pennsylvania through Thursday on the next storm barreling down on the region in the aftermath of a winter weather disaster.

By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – A power company, one dispatched from neighboring New York, finally shows up this morning in our tiny southwestern Pennsylvania village, four days after the lights went out from the crippling snowfall known as Stormageddon.

The news its driver delivers is encouraging, but he offers only a glimmer of hope the town folk will soon be able to once again crank up their home furnaces.

“They told us to tell everyone Thursday, or sooner,” he says about when the power might be restored. “We’re not making any promises.”

His passenger hops out and takes a quick look at a dangling wire on my street. The two men are just here to assess the damage.

“Did you take a ride up the hollow?” I ask.

“No,” the driver says.

“You need to,” is my response.

Along the narrow, winding Webster Hollow Road is where the two-day storm that thundered in Friday pulled as many as 10 large trees from their roots. The landslide brought down a string of lines feeding the village with electricity, phones and cable television.

The lineman says that road inspection is probably someone else’s job and he drives off, and so do I to begin reporting the next chapter of the storm story for the Observer-Reporter daily newspaper in Washington, Pa.

Some interesting tidbits of what turned up during my day are as follows:

The National Guard finally showed up to help run a new American Red Cross shelter as more than 19,000 houses are still without power in Washington County, and a new storm is approaching that could deliver another heavy snow. The guard’s first assignment is to relocate people who had called ambulances to take them to Washington Hospital because they were cold, not sick.

While 911 dispatchers were fielding more than 8,000 calls over two days during the last storm crisis, some local police were still pulling people over and radioing in for license checks.

Many residents are complaining that their local elected officials, emergency management coordinators and police failed them by not checking on neighborhoods without power or informing their residents about the locations of shelters and other places to get warm. Others defend them by saying those folks are busy, too, facing similar problems in this disaster.

The new “double-barrel storm” is expected, according to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, to dump as many as 10 new inches of snow in the area, beginning tonight and stretching into Thursday.

The first several inches are supposed to be wet and heavy before the temperature dips and the snow turns light and fluffy. Strong winds should follow the storm, creating what could be another powerful punch to bring down more trees and power lines. That is why the National Guard is here with Humvees to possibly evacuate more people to shelters, if the storm pans out.

The Weather Service people here work hard and are especially jovial when reporters call them for sources. But, I hope they are dead wrong on this storm.

At this point, it’s mostly rain here in Webster and the first snow-mix this afternoon left a dusting that has created a slippery mess on roads, some of which are still covered with ice craters. We were supposed to have already received as many as 4 inches of snow, atop the 2 feet that arrived earlier in some places.

Meanwhile, tree-clearing crew showed up in Webster this afternoon to begin the task of removing those downed trees along Webster Hollow Road. Fortunately, my house here is warm, and the pipes to my bathroom have defrosted. I’m one of the lucky few with auxiliary natural gas heat that doesn’t depend on electricity to work. So far, my resourceful neighbors appear to be dealing with this mess, as well, as it comes at them.

Four days after a winter weather disaster in southwestern Pennsylvania, a large tree dangles on power lines along Route 136 in Forward Township.

Washington County Public Safety Director Jeff Yates, left, briefs U.S. Army National Guard liaison officer Jason Mounts of Buffalo Township today on the disaster needs following last week's snow storm, as 18 percent houses in the county are still without power. Mounts first task will be to coordinate transporting people who sought shelter from the cold at Washington Hospital to an American Red Cross shelter.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bracing for Son of Stormageddon

Washington County Public Safety Director Jeff Yates watches a National Weather Service webinar today predicting the Son of Stormageddon to arrive Tuesday as the region digs out from a snowstorm disaster.

By Scott Beveridge

WASHINGTON, Pa. – The webinar today with emergency management folks from the tri-state area and the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh left everyone with a knot in their stomachs.

Another heavy snowstorm is approaching, one with the potential to cause a disaster worse than the one that followed “Stormageddon” on Friday and Saturday and left thousands of houses without heat and electricity.

The trees and many utility wires are still wrapped in thick ice and snow, and this new storm expected at 10 a.m. tomorrow will surely cause more, possibly worse destruction, Washington County Public Safety Director Jeff Yates said this afternoon.

“I can’t even fathom where we are going with this,” Yates told the Observer-Reporter newspaper this morning.

Yates, who has had little sleep since Friday, actually buried his face in his hands at the news. I wanted to drop an F-bomb. An emergency management official chimed in and said, "That's a big-ass storm."

“Buckle up,” Weather Service Meteorologist Rich Kane said during his webinar presentation when he predicted 9 to 13 inches by Saturday “double barrel” storms. Within the hour, his forecast changed to the possibility of 10 to 14 inches of snow.

This could not have come at a worse time.

Twenty-five percent of the county is still without power from the last storm that dropped as many as 2 feet of snow in the region. Yates also confirmed my suspicion that the Mon Valley, where I live, suffered the brunt of the storm.

It looks as if a tornado ripped through there, as hundreds of large trees have been uprooted by the weight of the snow. One local fire chief said today it will take the rest of the year to clean up the damage.

The power has yet to be restored to my house, but a natural gas fireplace and heater have kept the temperature there about 58 degrees at night during single-digit temperatures. However, the water pipes are now frozen in the bathroom so I probably will be boiling water to clean up in the bathtub. Lights some candles. I’m feeling the ambience.

As for the cat that I rescued from a neighbor’s house last night; it quit shivering and crying and seemed, at last check, to be adjusting to its new digs. However, I am not in a rush to go home once more to a dark, chilly house, especially now having worries that tomorrow’s storm might keep it in the dark for days to come.

The snow-coated Donora-Webster Bridge five days after Stormageddon arrived in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Surviving Stormageddon Day 3

Cold and ignored in Westmoreland County

By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – Allegheny Power, you are not entirely to blame for the power outage in this tiny village nestled among four municipalities with a combined population nearly 30,000 people.

We here in Webster, Pa., have long known that global positioning systems direct first-time visitors, inexperienced ambulance drivers and delivery trucks to nearby Donora, in place of our houses.

So here I offer the utility company a photograph of as many as 10 trees that were uprooted by "Stormageddon" after it began Friday night, pulling down the cable and electric wires. My brother remarked just two weeks ago that there was no excuse for these trees being ignored by the power company for so long because some of them were already leaning on those wires.

Meanwhile, I saw my first Allegheny Power repair truck today across the Monongahela River in Donora, a town that never lost its power to the heavy snow storm. It passed too quickly before I had a time to flag down its driver and direct him to tiny Webster with a population of fewer than 200 people.

Linemen, if you see this, the answer to our power outage can be found on Webster-Hollow Road. There are signs directing motorists to Webster from Route 51 in two locations in Rostraver Township.

By the way, can anyone tell me the identity of the emergency management director in wealthy Rostraver? To this date Sunday afternoon, no one has gone door-to-door in Webster to check on the elderly and sick, or to direct the neighborhood without heat to the nearest shelter for warmth and food. It's shameful.

Here I sit at Ringgold High School, near Monongahela, where senior citizens have been sheltering and raving about the local police and firemen for the wonderful job they have done to get them to safety. Thank you Monongahela.


The situation facing the power company is much worse that it seemed before I ventured out of town this afternoon to Monongahela.

There are large trees down across utility wires along the entire 5-mile distance along routes 906 and 136 between Webster and that neighboring city. It will not be an easy task to remove them and restore power in the area.

Meanwhile, I passed a large convoy of line repair trucks tonight on Route 51 in West Mifflin heading south in the direction of Rostraver. The amount of houses without power in this area appears to be widespread along Route 201 in Rostraver and in Jefferson Hills, Allegheny County.

The natural gas heater and fireplace at my house had the indoor temperature at 68 degrees at last check. Others are not so lucky.


As it happens, I have taken in the evacuated neighbor's overly-attentive cat until this mother of a storm has lifted and power returns to the neighborhood.

The candles are lit once more. Abbey has fresh cat liter, food and water, yet she still whines.

Outside, really the only way to describe it would be to say a hurricane swept through here Friday. The emergency folks are saying over there in Washington County it could be Friday until power is restored in some parts there. Here, in Westmoreland County, I am still in the dark and no one has said, to my knowledge, when rescuers will chop up the hundreds of trees that have fallen around here in order to return power to these parts.

Meanwhile, the cat is crying, seemingly afraid of its new digs. I want to tell her she should be so lucky to be warm once more as the temperature is dipping outside to 10 degrees.

To her credit, it is dark and scary tonight.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Surviving stormageddon online

Still without power 24 hours after a disastrous winter storm pummeled Pennsylvania, this photograph illustrates the challenges of bringing a Verizon cell phone signal to my house in the Monongahela River Valley.

I had to tape this fancy adapter with a mood light holding the broadband access device to the window in my front door at that exact location to stay connected. It's the only place in the house where the thing would work.

With all these candles in this room, I feel as if I am in a 1980s Sting music video. Meanwhile, the ironing board desk has no logical explanation, either.

Thank goodness I have some auxiliary heat in the form of a natural gas wall-mounted heater.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A hick town winter tradition

Under today's threat of a severe winter storm, once again the pickings are slim along the toilet paper isle at the local Giant Eagle supermarket outside of Washington, Pa.

The paranoid, frantically worried they will be shut in by the weather, also nearly wipe the supermarket shelves clean of eggs, milk and bread across southwestern Pennsylvania.

It's unfortunate for those who might actually need to go to the food store because they will stand in long lines as the snow falls, mostly behind old people with blue-tinged hair who apparently do not prefer the Northern Quilted brand.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

This marching band looks fun, not mad

It would be cool in Pittsburgh, Pa., if someone there started up something similar to the March Madness Marching Band of Lexington, Ky. (video by Jennifer Miller)

Monday, February 1, 2010

A photographer's essays

An e-mail that ordinarily would have been dumped today into this blog's junk file surprisingly caught my attention and took me to a web site with some amazing work by Pittsburgh freelance photographer Ross Mantle.

The shot, above, especially made me look twice at his work. His expressions in words that accompany the images are similarly sensitive and intriguing.

Click here to find his portfolio.