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Quick-hitting storm dumps rain on Valley

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 12:31 a.m.

A thunderstorm dropped more than an inch of rain and caused brief flooding in some parts of the Alle-Kiski Valley on Tuesday afternoon.

New Kensington especially was hit hard, with flooding reported on at least a half-dozen roads about 5:30 p.m.

“It's the annual mid-June canoe races in New Kensington,” joked Ed Saliba Jr., the city's assistant fire chief.

Saliba said the spot flooding occasionally occurs in low-lying areas after heavy summer thunderstorms.

“The storm sewers couldn't take the water and the manhole covers were blown off,” Saliba said.

John Darnley, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service Pittsburgh offices in Moon, said a cold front passing through Western Pennsylvania sparked the storms. Although there was a possibility for hail and lightning, Darnley said rain was the star of the show for the A-K Valley.

“There were some pretty good showers,” Darnley said.

He didn't have a rain total specifically for New Kensington, but he said about 1 12 inches of rain fell within an hour about 2 miles west of Vandergrift.

“Any poor drainage areas are going to be affected,” Darnley said of storms dropping that much rain. “If it would have been more persistent, say 2 inches, it could have gone from a flood advisory to a flash flood event.”

The weather service issued a flood advisory that expired at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

In New Kensington, flooding was reported on Stevenson Boulevard (Route 366/56) between Seventh Street and Francis Boulevard across from Valley High School; Freeport Road near Buffalo Bill's Roadhouse and Feldarelli Square and the intersection with Manor Road; on Industrial Boulevard beneath the Ninth Street Bridge; at Seventh Street and Constitution Boulevard; and along Route 56 heading toward Lower Burrell.

“Four of the city's five fire companies were called out,” Saliba said.

He could not confirm a 911 radio transmission that flooding was so intense at the corner of Stevenson Boulevard and Seventh Street that some cars at Advantage Auto Sales were forced into the road.

However, Saliba noted that a large culvert in the car dealership's parking lot carries a large amount of water off the hillside from the city's Mt. Vernon section and under the highway.

Less than a half-hour after the flooding was reported, the only sign it ever occurred along Stevenson Boulevard was a lone city worker clearing a storm grate in front of the city garage.

“It's amazing how fast that happens,” Saliba said. “Thank God nobody got hurt.”

Saliba said many firefighters had been at Memorial Park preparing for New Kensington Community Days, this Friday through Sunday, before the flooding, and several returned there afterward.

They are hoping for a rain-free week to allow for preparations and beautiful weather this weekend to encourage turnout.

They may get their wish: the weather service is predicting sunny skies at least through Friday and high temperatures climbing into the 80s at least through Tuesday. There is a chance of thunderstorms over the weekend.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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