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Team saves Elizabeth neighborhood

| Thursday, July 11, 2013, 4:26 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Swiftwater response crews from Elizabeth and Glassport clear a neighborhood including Polk and Irwin streets, where Fallen Timber Run flooded its banks and destroyed the roadway on Wednesday morning.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Firefighters and utility crews evaluate conditions along Irwin and Polk streets in Elizabeth, where Fallen Timber Run flooded its banks and destroyed roadways in the small neighborhood on Wednesday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Firefighter Matt Styche and police Officer John Snelson remove a beagle named Snuffy from a household along Polk Street in Elizabeth, where two residents refused to leave their flooding neighborhood on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. Snuffy recently had surgery.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
An Elizabeth resident stands on the other side of a broken roadway talking to fire Chief Chad Rager. She refused to leave her home during Wednesday morning's flooding, but asked authorities to carry her dog to safety.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Firefighter Matt Styche and police officer John Snelson remove a beagle named Snuffy from a household along Polk Street, where two residents refused to leave their flooding neighborhood on Wednesday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Snuffy, a pet beagle that recently had surgery, was carried out of a home that its owners refused to leave. They arranged for it to be taken to a nearby veterinary hospital.

A swiftwater rescue team came to the aid of Elizabeth residents on Wednesday morning as heavy rains overflowed Fallen Timber Run.

Six families were evacuated from residences along Cemetery, Irwin and Polk streets. One elderly couple refused to leave their Polk Street home, but sent their dog out with firefighters and police for lodging at Riverside Veterinary Hospital in downtown Elizabeth.

Snuffy, a beagle that recently had surgery, was put into a carrier and onto a utility wagon that was used to pull him away from the flooded terrain.

The woman watched as authorities pulled her pup to safety, and swiftwater crews stood in awe as she stood her ground.

“People don't understand,” Glassport Citizens Hose Co. No. 1 Chief Wayne Lewis said. “Never underestimate water. Look around here at all of the damage water can do. Fences, picnic areas, roads — they're gone.”

Lewis, also the Mon-Yough river supervisor for Allegheny County's Swiftwater/Flood Response Team, said crews advised residents of the dangers that come with flooding.

“There was a huge amount of fast-moving water that came through here, and we anticipate there will be more,” he said. “This ground can't take more water.”

Hayley Brown, who will be a senior at Elizabeth Forward when classes resume and has lived in the neighborhood her whole life, was among those evacuated.

“Usually, our basement floods up to the second step at the bottom,” she said. “The creek will get high and water will come up through manholes in the road, but it's never like this. We've never had to leave our home.”

Elizabeth council president Monica Glowinski arrived on scene after waters receded.

“I've been in contact with our borough police all morning,” Glowinski said. “What they described and the pictures they sent — I don't think it portrayed what has happened here. It looks like a river has divided our town.”

Rainwater rushed from a nearby hillside into the creek and onto the roadways. Fast-moving water and debris cracked the roadway and washed away chunks of asphalt.

Elizabeth fire Chief Chad Rager was on scene when Wednesday's first storm began, dropping nearly 2 inches of water during morning rains.

“This area was all clear with the first storm,” Rager said. “When the second storm came through, it was 10 times worse than the first. All of these homes and this whole street were full of water.”

Utility crews and public works staff worked all day to clear debris and secure the scene. With rain holding off for most of the afternoon, Rager was worried that the worst was still on its way.

“They are calling for more storms, and they're supposed to be severe,” he said. “We've got guys designated for this area. They'll be watching it all night.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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