Flash flooding engulfs Mt. Pleasant Township, surrounding areas
By A.J. Panian
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Each August, Adeline Tylka holds a yard sale at her home along Hamel Road in Mt. Pleasant Township.
The year's installment was an absolute washout.
That was due to torrential downpours on Friday which led to flooded streams engulfing properties throughout the township and surrounding areas.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist John Darnley, a frontal boundary came from the northwest and merged with a warm, moist air mass to produce heavy rain as the front moved southeast.
Darnley reported nearly 2 inches of rain fell between 8 and 9 a.m. over the southeast corner of Washington County, the northern portion of Fayette and southern Westmoreland.
“When you have almost 2 inches of rain falling in a short amount of time like that, the tributaries can't drain that amount in a short time,” Darnley said.
The downpour caused the waters of the normally tranquil Jacobs Creek to cascade at a level Tylka said she had not witnessed in nearly 30 years.
“The last time I saw it this high was in August of 1985. There were people kayaking down the stream when it happened then. We were told to evacuate that year, but we stayed,” Tylka said.
Tylka and members of her family stayed on Friday, as well, as a stone wall built along the stream across the road protected her property from the raging floodwaters.
Just down the road, resident Becky Gordon pensively watched as the waters raged, hoping that the crest had already come.
“I've lived here 18 years, and it's never been anywhere near as bad as this,” Gordon said.
The flooding Jacobs Creek also overtook resident Charles Maccarelli's 3⁄4-acre property along State Route 982 in Laurelville.
In addition several tributaries of the creek which merge on neighboring properties were also flooded over, causing the Maccarelli's property and that of his neighbors to become a virtual lake.
“I've lived down here since 1979, and I've never seen it this bad,” Maccarelli said. “There was quite a bit of flooding that went through our property and the properties of our neighbors.”
At the peak of the flooding, Maccarelli said he was knee deep in water in his backyard attempting to retrieve various items, including flowerbed borders. A wishing well on the property was also damaged, he said.
“The well was setting on a slab and the water just pushed that well from my property to my neighbor's property,” Maccarelli said. “Kecksburg (Volunteer Fire Department) came down, they were down here to make sure everything was OK.”
Around 10:30 a.m., Westmoreland 911 reported that an unidentified male who was swept into the floodwaters as he tried to tend to his property along state Route 982 at Mennonite Church Road, also in Laurelville. He was quickly rescued from the raging torrent by friends and family, said Duane Hutter, a Mt. Pleasant Township supervisor and an official with the Kecksburg Rescue and EMS unit.
“I was just getting in ambulance to go, and Westmoreland 911 cancelled us because they pulled him out,” Hutter said.
Westmoreland 911 dispatchers reported that roads were flooded throughout the township, East Huntingdon and Scottdale as a result of the storm.
In addition, Mt. Pleasant Borough Volunteer Fire Department responded to reports of residential flooding along Bridgeport Road in Mt. Pleasant Township, according to Westmoreland 911, and a flooded basement in a residence along Main Street in Donegal Borough.
Flooding damaged a concrete wall and contributed to the formation of a possible sinkhole at the waterfalls behind the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center camp office, according to Derek Yoder, host of guest services for the center.
He said even when Hurricane Sandy hit in October the waters of nearby Jacobs Creek waters did not rise above the bank adjacent to the falls, but they did on Friday.
Camp employee Linda Berkey of Scottdale said she hadn't seen the water this high in 11 years there.
“It was flooded beyond the dining hall by about 10:30 a.m.,” Berkey said.
Back on Hamel Road, Tylka's daughter-in-law, Lori Cid of Mt. Pleasant, was on hand to help with the yard sale. Cid was a resident of Johnstown during the flood of 1977.
“This does bring back some upsetting memories,” Cid said.
Mt. Pleasant Township Supervisor Frank Puskar said he and township crews were responding to flooding calls all morning, including residences on High Street and in Hecla.
Puskar said the inclement weather is merely the latest in what has been “an awful, wet, cool summer.”
“We've been inundated with bad rains and high water all summer, and the ground is saturated,” he said. “I sure hope this wet weather is not an indicator of what kind of winter we're going to have.”
Through it all, Mt. Pleasant Borough went virtually unscathed, according to volunteer fire Chief Jerry Lucia. The department assisted other departments on pumping details at residences outside borough boundaries, but none within, he said.
“We were real lucky, so I was very happy with that,” he said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or email@example.com.
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