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Holiday weekend flooding possible

| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

Authorities do not see Independence Day weekend being a washout, but they are bracing for possible flooding.

“Through this weekend and even into maybe Monday there is a chance of a shower or thunderstorm every day, but there will be some breaks of sun,” AccuWeather meteorologist Erik Pindrock said.

Since June 25, Allegheny County Airport has had 3.06 inches of rain — nearly three and a half times the normal 0.89 inches.

During that same period, 2.89 inches have been measured at Pittsburgh International Airport, where the normal for the period is 1.12 inches.

“Since this ground is so saturated, any quick burst of wet weather could cause flooding rather quick,” said Glassport's Citizens Hose Co. No. 1 fire Chief Wayne Lewis. “If you are picnicking around creeks and streams and if rains come heavy you have to keep an eye on rising water.”

Lewis is Mon-Yough supervisor for the Allegheny County Swiftwater/Flood Response Team, which includes firefighters from McKeesport, Glassport and Elizabeth.

“You have to keep an eye on rising water,” Lewis urged those with weekend plans near bodies of water. “If they come up they are going to come up quick and they're going to go down quick.”

Local flood response team members have been on alert for the past week, since they were put on standby to help with flooding in Clearfield and Jefferson counties.

The local crew was called as 6-8 inches of rain fell in DuBois and other Central Pennsylvania communities on Thursday. The storms damaged nearly 200 homes and businesses.

“We had 10 just here in the Mon Valley on standby,” Lewis said. “The boats are hooked up, the clothes are packed, the food and supplies are packed.”

Flooding still is a concern along the Eastern Seaboard.

Flood watches were in effect on Tuesday night as far west as Cambria and Somerset counties. Flood warnings are in effect through Friday afternoon from Pennsylvania's Upper Susquehanna Valley into Upstate New York.

But during the next two days, high pressure over the Atlantic will move the heaviest rainfall inland over the Appalachians toward the Ohio Valley and Eastern Great Lakes.

Pindrock said there will be “a risk just about daily for an hour or so” of showers or thunderstorms.

“If over the next couple days there are hit-or-miss garden variety storms there probably will not be any issues,” the AccuWeather meteorologist said. “The concern would be if you got these localized downpours. Certainly there would be poor drainage street flooding and some low level flooding.”

For Allegheny County, that would mean getting perhaps 1 12 to 2 inches of rain in a 12-hour period.

Lesser amounts of rain have fallen early this week. At County Airport, 0.35 inches fell on Sunday, 0.18 inches on Monday.

At Pittsburgh International, 0.2 inches fell on Sunday, 0.23 inches on Monday.

The latest rain raised river levels by midday on Tuesday to 8.91 feet on the Youghiogheny at Sutersville, 12.5 feet on the Monongahela at Braddock and 17.42 feet on the Ohio at Pittsburgh. None are near flood level and all are expected to remain steady or drop off.

Staff Writer Jennifer R. Vertullo contributed to this story. Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or