Waterlogged South Hills continues storm clean up
By Stephanie Hacke and Brittany Goncar
Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Heavy rains often mean flooded basements and closed streets for South Hills residents, especially those in the Streets Run Road area.
Members of Baldwin Independent Fire Company No. 1 refer to the main thoroughfare as “Streets Run River” because of its frequent flooding, deputy Chief Bill Connors said.
The main route through Baldwin Borough and into Pittsburgh lived up to the nickname on July 10 as nearly six feet of water filled the road at some points.
Allegheny County Swiftwater Rescue worked with crews from Baldwin No. 1 to help save two city public works employees from the back of a dump truck, said Keith Jankowski, a swiftwater rescue supervisor.
“The water was about waist high. Quite turbulent,” he said.
Baldwin No. 1 crews also rescued a woman stuck in her car along Streets Run, Connors said.
A flooded Streets Run has become a familiar sight, but the difference last week was that the storms came quicker and harder than typical, and flood waters rose higher, residents and first responders said.
“Normally with Streets Run, we can monitor it and prepare,” Connors said.
During the last 12 months, Streets Run has flooded 10 to 12 times, Connors said, and typically, the worst spot is across from Chapon's Greenhouse & Supply. Baldwin public works, firefighters or police typically close the road between Glass Run and Brentwood roads, with the city's cooperation, when it floods, Connors said.
But some people ignore restrictions. When Baldwin crews place a barricade at an intersection, they check for vehicles in the flooded area, Connors said. Three of the last five times the road was closed, someone had to be rescued, Connors said, and often the motorist drove around or moved the barricade.
Baldwin Borough police said they cited two people last week for failing to obey traffic controls or devices on Streets Run.
Typically, Baldwin police said, they ask drivers who go around barricades at night to turn around. Yet, if it is in broad daylight and a driver blatantly has gone through, Baldwin officers said they will cite the driver.
Most of these violations in Baldwin Borough are on Streets Run Road, police said.
A law that Gov. Tom Corbett signed in July 2012 imposes penalties on drivers who ignore “road closed” signs.
Motorists who drive around or through signs or traffic control devices that close a road due to hazardous conditions will have two points added to their driving records and be fined up to $250. If emergency responders must be called, the fine can be as high as $500, and violators can be ordered to repay the costs of staging the emergency response.
“I urge residents and commuters (to not) take the risk upon themselves,” Connors said. This not only puts the driver's life in danger, but also the firefighters, he said.
The road is operated by the state, Connors said. He and residents suggested construction of better drainage systems and dredging the creek to prevent future floods.
“Something needs to be done,” Connors said.
Pleasant Hills flooding
Sheetz manager Glenn Schach watched as flood waters rose last week at the Route 51 and Lewis Run intersection in Pleasant Hills.
“This is the worst I've seen,” he said. The intersection was under as much as four feet of water by 9 a.m. and was closed for a short time, Schach said.
“It's been an issue for some time now,” he said. “They have to restructure the road, widen it and fix the drainage. It's dangerous. I'm afraid a fatality is going to have to happen for that to change.”
Pleasant Hills Volunteer Fire Company responded to 54 calls that day, Assistant Chief Randy Porter said.
Linda Alukonis, 52, has lived in a house on Brentwood Road in Baldwin Borough all of her life, and said she has grown accustomed to the flooding.
Last fall, she had a generator-run sump pump put into her home. That came in handy July 10 when the electricity went out around 9:30 a.m. and remained out at 2 p.m., Alukonis said.
The pump kept her home from flooding, she said. But Brentwood Road was a different story.
“Just muddy water, trees, rocks,” Alukonis said, noting her neighbor was evacuated from her home.
One home at Streets Run and Brentwood roads had as much as seven feet of water in its basement, Option Independent Fire Company Chief Jim Barbour said.
Crews from Option Independent used their seven pumps to clean out basements of homes and respond to a variety of calls, 24 in all, Barbour said.
“This one was definitely a rare occasion with how many calls we had,” Barbour said. “It was just one thing going on after another. ... All three Baldwin departments, we were running our tails off.”
Option Independent crews assisted an elderly woman after a tree fell on a utility pole in front of her car near Schuette and Brentwood roads, Barbour said. Wires from the utility pole surrounded her car and the woman was stranded inside.
A home also was struck by lightning on Macassar Drive, Barbour said. The structure had no exterior damage.
Fast-moving waters triggered road closures in Jefferson Hills. Two streets on Monday still had single-lane traffic as crews made repairs, public works supervisor Tom Lovell said.
“We are just trying to put everything back together,” he said.
Typically, Peters Creek Road and Waterman get hit the hardest, Lovell said. This year, Gill Hall and Cochran also were “flooded out.”
Basements throughout Whitehall Borough flooded and the Baptist/Weyman road and Doverdell Drive intersection was closed to traffic as waters quickly rose during last week's storm.
“This was just a really bad storm,” Whitehall Manager James Leventry said. “That's one intersection that always seems (to have problems with flooding).”
Gateway Engineers is conducting a feasibility study of the Grove, Weyman and Baptist road area to find ways to improve the sewer system and reduce flooding, Leventry said.
Allegheny County Sanitary Authority and communities it serves are under a consent decree from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state Department of Environmental Protection and Allegheny County Health Department to achieve compliance with the federal Clean Water Act during wet weather.
The consent decree mandates that municipalities review sanitary sewer systems in known problem areas, Leventry said. Upgrades to the area will be made based on cost, he said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Brittany Goncar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or email@example.com.
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