Round 2 unleashes floodwaters again
By Patrick Cloonan
Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013, 3:46 a.m.
Five motorists were rescued when a late Wednesday afternoon flood swamped Boston Hollow Road in Elizabeth Township.
“We found five cars in the water,” said Glassport Fire Chief Wayne Lewis, Mon-Yough river supervisor for Allegheny County's Swiftwater/Flood Response Team. “We rescued the individuals by boat. All were treated and released by (Elizabeth Township Area EMS).”
Glassport and Elizabeth crews went to Boston, backed up by McKeesport and Pittsburgh swiftwater personnel.
“It is terrible,” John Mihaljevich said of the flooding along the Boston shore of the Youghiogheny River. “We never had water in the yard like that in 33 years.”
Mihaljevich just finished clearing out a creek bed that feeds the Yough from his property. It had been flooded on Tuesday.
“I took the roots and everything out,” Mihaljevich said. “There's lots of mud and a lot of debris to clean up.”
No problems were reported on the other side of the river. A receptionist at Woody's Restaurant in Versailles said business was good despite the storm.
“We've been busy,” the receptionist said.
For the second time in a week, Blaine Hill volunteer firefighters pumped water from Nancy Blake's basement and yard.
“I just had a new furnace installed at 11 a.m. (Wednesday) because of last week's flood,” she said. “Now it happened again and they are calling for more rain (Thursday) and Friday.”
Blake has lived at her Lovedale Road home in Elizabeth Township for 42 years, and although the house has been flooded before, the two recent floods were caused by the stream overflowing its banks. Despite a sump pump, she said there were 4 inches of water in her basement last week, and two more from Wednesday's rain.
“It's hard when you've lived here this long and this happens,” she said. “We'll be OK. The Lord will take care of us. We will try to get sandbags to put in front of the cellar door before the next round of rain comes.”
Flooding was reported on W. Smithfield Street and Lovedale Road in nearby Lincoln. The storm coincided with a gathering of borough residents and officials concerned about water flowing off a nearby state highway.
“It's a repeated problem since Liberty Way was paved five years ago,” Lincoln Councilwoman Tammy Ferguson said.
“Up at the corner there needs to be an inlet installed to catch the water being channeled off Liberty Way,” surveyor Don Houseley of KLH Engineers said.
“It is just getting to be much worse,” Bruce Cunning said as he watched water flowing down and through his access way off Calhoun Road.
“It is washing away the driveway,” neighbor Lorraine Chizmar said. She and her husband, Bernie, said the borough works constantly to maintain Calhoun but the runoff has caused thousands of dollars in damage.
Another neighbor is even worse off, Ferguson said. Five feet of water covered the family's five vehicles on July 10 and again on Tuesday.
PennDOT District 11 spokesman Steve Cowan said Tuesday's storm dropped 83 hundredths of an inch of rain and impacted at least two other nearby state highways.
Route 2001, known as Glassport-Elizabeth Road and Lincoln Boulevard, was closed at the juncture of Bellbridge Road in Lincoln from Tuesday at 5:47 p.m. until Wednesday at 2:35 a.m.
“Route 48 was closed in both directions in Versailles,” Cowan said. “A tree took down utility lines at some point. We don't know when that occurred. The local police contacted us for assistance (on Wednesday) at 1:40 a.m. The roadway was reopened at 5:06 a.m.”
In Liberty, borough council heard from residents who had flood damage this week. Liberty Borough Volunteer Fire Department president Amy Huwalt said firefighters answered 12 calls on Tuesday for flooded basements and one for a lightning strike.
A pine tree outside Liberty Presbyterian Church was hit, but not the church itself. Huwalt said there was no damage.
“It's the first time I ever saw a Christmas tree lit up in July,” Mayor Edward Slater said.
Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services said it is assessing damage from the July 10 flash flooding. Teams of assessors from the federal government, the state and the county will visit Forward Township, Clairton, Elizabeth, Elizabeth Township, West Elizabeth and Jefferson Hills on Thursday.
“This process allows us to attempt to assist affected municipalities in returning to their pre-event status by working with our partners at the state and federal level,” county Emergency Services Chief Alvin Henderson said.
For the second day in a row lightning gave McKeesport firefighters headaches.
Deputy Fire Chief Ed Harmon said on Wednesday evening there were a few power outages, and a chimney was struck by lightning and blew off of a vacant property along Apple Alley.
Public works crews removed a tree that was leaning on power lines along the 1000 block of Jenny Lind Street.
Harmon said flooding was limited and the water receded quickly.
Nearly 4,000 Duquesne Light customers were blacked out by Wednesday's storm because of downed wires and fallen trees due to high winds, Duquesne Light spokesman Joey Vallarian said.
Service had been restored to most of the 8,250 customers affected by Tuesday's storm, including some in downtown McKeesport. Vallarian said an underground vault was flooded along Fifth Avenue near Coursin Street and some equipment was damaged. Duquesne Light crews were back in the city Wednesday night to deal with another underground problem along Fifth at Walnut Street.
West Penn Power still had outages on Wednesday at noon in two Forward Township locations, as well as in Sunset Valley in North Huntingdon Township.
The late afternoon storm affected West Penn Power customers in Elizabeth, Lincoln, the area around Round Hill Park in Elizabeth Township and in South Park Township.
Severe heat is forecast to continue through Friday, with daytime highs around 90 and the heat index reaching triple digits.
At Allegheny County Airport, the heat index hit 94 on Wednesday at 12:53 p.m., as a thunderstorm approached from Beaver and Washington counties.
It didn't reach County Airport, but a subsequent storm dropped a hundredth of an inch of rain and lowered the temperature from 84 to 77 and the heat index from 95 to 78.
Thunderstorms may pop up over the next two days, AccuWeather forecasters said, followed by strong storms accompanying a cold front through the Mon-Yough area on Friday night and Saturday. They said that will lower high temperatures to 84 on Saturday and 79 on Sunday.
“Beyond the weekend, humidity levels are likely to creep back up (and a) pattern of frequent showers and thunderstorms could soon follow,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. “At this stage, it does not appear that extreme temperatures will be in a hurry to build back and stay for an extended period like it did during this week.”
Editor Carol Waterloo Frazier, Staff Writer Michael DiVittorio and Chief Photographer Cindy Shegan Keeley 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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