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Heavy rains cause Kiski Valley flooding

Across the region

Heavy rain pounded portions of six counties on Wednesday as it moved southeast from Crawford to Fayette, trapping motorists inside their vehicles and people inside their homes.

Meteorologists charted the storm's path southeast from Crawford County through Venango, Butler, Armstrong, Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

In Westmoreland, Michelle Gallagher stood outside her mobile home in Loyalhanna Township, fearing the worst as she watched a swollen creek engulfing her husband as it rushed over their wooded property into the Conemaugh River.

“I was scared. I thought he was gone. I called 911, and I thought that was it,” she said.

Brian Gallagher was safe. He hitched his life jacket to a post.

Emergency management in Venango County told the National Weather Service that there was widespread flooding in five communities with three roads closed and 13 others partially underwater.

By Jodi Weigand, Liz Hayes and R.A. Monti
Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 3:39 p.m.
 

“Not since Hurricane Ivan” was a common response from Alle-Kiski Valley residents when asked if they'd ever seen flooding like that experienced Wednesday afternoon.

Rescue crews were saturated with calls about flooded roads, creeks, yards and basements starting at about 2 p.m. Wednesday.

A deep layer of very moist air accounted for the 2 to more-than-3-inches of rain slamming eastern Butler County, western Armstrong County and throughout Westmoreland County in a two-hour period, according to Brad Rehak, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon Township.

It didn't take long for water to back up on roadways due to overwhelmed or clogged storm drains.

People were trapped in flooded homes in Bethel, Gilpin, Parks and Washington townships. Residents along Glade Run Road in North Buffalo and in Craigsville in the Worthington/West Franklin area had been evacuated from their homes by boat.

There were reports of flooded roads and people trapped in their cars in Allegheny Township, North Apollo, Oklahoma and Vandergrift.

“We've had close to 500 calls in the last two hours,” said Armstrong County Coordinator Ronald Baustert at the Emergency Management Center in Rayburn.

Most were reports of flooded basements and roads and downed trees, Baustert said.

School buses were behind schedule as they tried to navigate around flooded roads.

Emergency crews were sent out to clear mud slides along Route 66 in Bethel and elsewhere.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Washington Twp. hit

Some elderly residents had to be helped from their homes in The Meadows mobile home park in Washington Township after Pine Run creek overflowed its banks. Water surrounded more than a dozen homes closest to the creek.

Firefighters were able to wade through the water and carry the residents out on stretchers, said police Chief Scott Slagle. He said when he went in to help, the water was about 2 feet deep.

Within about an hour, the water had begun to recede.

“We went in and moved our cars as soon as we saw the drain in the corner of the lot backing up,” said resident Sandy Stiffler. No water got into their trailer, she and her mother said.

They were surprised by the extent of the flooding.

“Normally, it's like this after two or three days of heavy rain,” Stiffler said.

4 feet deep in Apollo

In Apollo, about 4 feet of water pooled on Route 66 at 11th Street in Apollo.

The driver of a vehicle that got stuck in floodwaters there was able to get out unharmed.

It took about a 90 minutes for firefighters to clear enough debris from drains that the water began to recede.

Several tractor-trailer trucks that got stuck between flooded area behind them on Route 66 and at 11th Street had been sitting idle for at least 90 minutes, waiting for the roadway to reopen.

Shirley Stewart, the owner of Valley Florist on First Street, said she had never seen flooding like Wednesday's deluge during her 27 years in business.

“I have a couple of inches in here,” she said. “My computer's in water. It came through the walls.”

The flower shop didn't close because of the water, Stewart said.

“I have a vacuum that will be able to suck up the water,” she said. “I have to go home and get it.

“But I just want to sit down and cry.”

After working the night shift at Allegheny Ludlum, Curtis Woods, 43, of 11th Street slept through the storms, only to be awakened by his wife as their basement had 3 feet of water.

“The water has recessed, but now I've got a basement full of mud and debris,” said Woods, who raked up broken limbs and other material left by the flood Wednesday evening.

Residents said it's typical for water to back up there, but not to the extend it did Wednesday.

“I don't think anybody has ever gotten their car stuck in it,” said Apollo resident Tom Sallade.

Avonmore plant OK

It only took about five minutes for water to begin rushing into Reynolds Manufacturing along Railroad Avenue in Avonmore: “The water came in faster than any of the storm sewers could handle,” said Brett Stevenson, Reynolds' controller.

Stevenson said the shop floor was filled with about 5 inches of water, but the plant wouldn't need to shut down because the equipment workers use is kept off the ground.

Man trapped in house

Skinall Road in Cadogan Township was under at least 2 feet of water when a nearby creek flooded. The waters rose quickly, trapping Ralph Cardinal in his home.

Cardinal's son, Jody Cardinal, said his father stayed calm while the floodwaters rose around his home.

“We're worried about his breathing, since he takes treatments and probably doesn't have electricity available,” Cardinal said.

During the flood, water swept over Cardinal's car, moving it across the parking lot, Jody Cardinal said.

“The creek was dredged several years ago to keep this from happening,” he said. “But I don't think anything could have stopped this.”

Parks Township damage

On several sections of River Road (Route 66) in Parks Township headed toward Leechburg, small rocks and other debris had been washed into the road.

In one section near Riverview Homes nearly the entire roadway was flooded; though cars could get by in the lane closest to the river. Flares on both sides warned drivers of the hazard.

Outside River Road Six Pack in Parks, muddy water cascaded down steps near a wooden pavilion and out onto the road.

“It was like a raging river over there,” said customer John Lute of Vandergrift.

Power outages

West Penn Power was reporting outages in Allegheny, Armstrong and Westmoreland counties.

Bethel, Cadogan, Fawn, Manor, North Buffalo, Parks, South Buffalo, Washington and Upper Burrell townships were among the most impacted communities.

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer. Liz Hayes and Jodi Weigand are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Hayes can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com. Weigand can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com. Staff writer Mary Ann Thomas and Trib Total Media writers Brigid Beatty and Brad Pedersen contributed to this report.

 

 
 


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