Double whammy storms hit Valley
By Chris Buckley
Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013, 1:26 a.m.
Sweeping up gravel along Turkey Hollow Road in front of his house shortly before noon Wednesday, Bob Allen recalled the ferocity with which flash flooding swept through the area.
“I looked out my window and the road was clear and the (rain) water was flowing down the drain,” the Rostraver Township man recalled.
“Five minutes later, the drains were clogged and it was flooding.”
Between 3 and 4 inches of rain that fell in two mid-morning downpours overwhelmed the Valley, causing flash flooding, closing roadways and leading to a state of emergency declaration in Elizabeth.
However, low-lying areas of the Valley that are usually susceptible first to low-level flooding were not hit with Wednesday's storm. For example, no flooding was reported along Water Street in Belle Vernon and Park Avenue in Monongahela.
Brad Rehak, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Moon Township, said those areas were spared because the storms struck farther north and had less of an impact on the Monongahela River.
The Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers were expected to crest well below flood stage Thursday.
Instead, flooding throughout the region was caused by two heavy downpours.
Airport Road in Union Township was closed for much of Wednesday.
In Rostraver Township, Salem Church and Turkey Hollow roads were shut down for a while as crews cleaned up slides that covered portions of the roadways.
Portions of Willowbrook Golf Course were underwater Wednesday.
Floyd Macheska, co-owner of the West Newton Bike Shop, said the creek near his shop overflowed and caused water to come into the lower level of the business.
“It started at 9 a.m. and then again at 10:30 – there were two big drenches,” Macheski said.
“The water receded from the shop when the rain cleared right before noon.”
Flooding affected commuter transit service between the Valley and Downtown Pittsburgh. Because of road closures on routes 88 and 51 in the South Hills, commuter service was delayed much of the day. Buses were running, albeit on delays, by evening commute.
Flooding led to a detour on the Commuter A Valley-to-Pittsburgh service from Connor Road to Route 19 to the South Busway between Castle Shannon and Bethel Park before resuming along Route 88 into the Valley.
Riders in the South Hills who catch the bus at the park-and-ride lot in Library were unable to do so Wednesday because the site was closed because of flooding.
Bill Hess Sr., emergency management director for Forward Township, said firefighters were busy pumping water out of basements throughout the day.
Tree branches, rock and mud partially covered various roadways in the township, including Route 136. Flooding also affected Williamsport Road, where Bunola firefighters were aiding in the cleanup.
Pangburn Hollow was hit pretty hard by the storm, Hess said.
“It just came down with such volume, all at one time,” Hess said.
The heaviest rain moved along southern parts of Allegheny County, including the Elizabeth area.
It closed numerous roads, took out a bridge in Elizabeth Township and prompted emergency declarations on Wednesday in Elizabeth, West Elizabeth and Jefferson Hills. In Elizabeth, flooding cut off Irwin Street, an access road for the Pfilishire neighborhood along Fallen Timber Run.
“The banks from the creek are completely washed away,” council President Monica Glowinski said.
Route 48 was closed between Grouse Drive in Elizabeth Township and Scenery Drive in Forward Township.
In Elizabeth Township, resident James Bonner, 80, said he was doing OK after his bridge over Wylie Run Creek near Lovedale Road collapsed.
“I came down my driveway and made a right to cross my bridge and there was no bridge there,” Bonner said. “The bridge is gone. There's a terrible flood coming down Lovedale.”
Bonner said he has lived in his township home at 810 Lovedale Road since 1960, adding nothing like this had occurred before.
“This is one in 100 years, I guess you could call it,” he said. “Water's just roaring down the street. I'm fine. At 80 years old, I've been through a lot. What are you gonna do. We got a tow truck coming. We got a backhoe here. We're trying.
“We got to get across the creek with planks or something. We got five cars on this side of the creek that we can't move.”
Bonner said the bridge is private property, and he needs to find a way to replace it. He claimed no one ever cleans the creek, and it floods easily because it backs up with debris.
A swiftwater rescue team came to the aid of Elizabeth residents Wednesday morning as heavy rain overflowed Fallen Timber Run. Six families were evacuated from residences along Cemetery, Irwin and Polk streets.
One older 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.
Elizabeth fire chief Chad Rager was on scene when Wednesday's first storm began, dropping nearly 2 inches of water in the morning.
“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.”
Hess likened the storm to the blizzard that struck the region in February 2010. Like that storm, the Elizabeth-Forward Township area was near the epicenter of the storm.
“This is one of those things, like the snow storm – you can't do anything but sit and wait. You can't do anything to prepare for it.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or email@example.com.
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