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Ligonier firefighters rescue flood victims

| Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, 7:36 p.m.
Flood water from Mill Creek isolates a home on North Avenue in Ligonier on Tuesday, October 30, 2012, after superstorm Sandy swept through. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review

As the remnants of Hurricane Sandy made its way into the Ligonier Valley Monday night, borough firefighters didn't have time to pump basements because they were too busy rescuing folks from flooded homes.

“We did 18 physical rescues,” Ligonier Volunteer Hose Co. No. 1 Chief Paul Church said. “We didn't do much water pumping (Monday) night because water was still coming up.”

While the storm brought high winds and a slushy, wet snow to some areas of the Ligonier Valley, rising flood waters did the most damage, forcing people from their homes and closing roads.

Ligonier Mayor Ormond “Butch” Bellas declared an emergency for Ligonier Borough around 11:30 p.m. Monday night. He said he would not be lifting the declaration until the borough's closed roads — Millcreek and Indian Streets and Cedar Alley — are reopened.

Church said the rescues were conducted between 10:30 p.m. Monday and 1 a.m. Tuesday as rising waters got into homes.

Five people were rescued by boat, but the rest were able to walk out of their homes with firefighters' assistance. They were taken to the Ligonier Valley YMCA or stayed with family and friends.

“The water got in their basements but didn't reach their first floor,” Bellas said. “We evacuated them anyway, just to be safe.”

Firefighters then spent much of Tuesday pumping out basements.

Ligonier Borough Public Works Director Paul Fry said he wouldn't characterize this flooding as extreme.

“At least not yet, we still have another 36 hours of rain to get through, but the creek is receding a little bit,” he said. “It's flooding in the same places it always floods when we get this type of rain.”

Several people were evacuated from homes in Waterford and Darlington in Ligonier Township as well.

Darlington Fire Chief Bob McDowell said they evacuated several families from their homes along Golden Rod and Ross roads and Giesey Lane.

“Most people decided to stay and ride out the storm,” he said. “It wasn't a mandatory evacuation.”

Ligonier Township Supervisor Tim Komar said five township roads have been closed due to flooding including state Route 381, Ross, Peters, Two Mile Run and Darlington-Rector roads.

“I think this (flooding) is excessive compared to what we're used to in an average storm, but it could be worse,” Komar said. “Honestly, there's a lot of water, but there's been no damage to the roads that we know of.”

Komar said about 1 ½ inches of snow fell in Darlington overnight. “All and all we're pretty lucky. We have a lot of water, but it could be worse,” McDowell said. “Right now it's kind of a wait-and-see situation until the water goes down. It's a frustrating effort right now because we can't keep ahead of it until it starts to recede.”

Jennifer Reeger is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or