ShareThis Page

Flash flooding strands drivers, inundates neighborhoods

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 8:03 a.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Gordon Stoernell of Bridgeville dries his shoes after cleaning mud from the Railroad Street restaurant, DiMarios, on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A swift-water rescue team take a Columbia Gas employee around to flooded businesses and homes in Oakdale to shut off their gas on Wednesday afternoon.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Dan Cunningham (center) and Frank Tome, both of Bridgeville, clean muck out of the basement of the Owls Club on Baldwin Street in Bridgeville on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
People wade through the floodwaters near an abandonded truck along Clinton Avenue in Oakdale after heavy rains battered the town on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. The driver of the truck had to be rescued from the vehicle.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Oakdale firefighters Mike Hartman (left) and Luke Navickas salvage gear from their fire station on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Baldwin Road in Hays is covered with water after Streets Run flooded from thunderstorms on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
A boy laughs as he carries a wooden goose through the floodwater along Maple Avenue in Oakdale on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Jill Bonner of Lovedale Road in Elizabeth Township surveys the damage to her grandfather's truck after the bridge connecting their driveway to Lovedale Road was washed away during heavy rains on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
A worker tries to open a drain to ease flooding on Glass Run Road at Baldwin Road in Hays on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A road worker tries the door of a car abandoned in floodwaters at Morange and Idlewood roads in the South Hills on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A Bridgeville resident evacuates his dogs after McLaughlin Run flooded near Baldwin Street in Bridgeville on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Public Works and first responders work to reopen Baldwin Road in Hays after it flooded with water from Streets Run after thunderstorms swept through the area on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
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.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Ginny Manius tries to keep floodwaters from reaching her home along Noblestown Road in Oakdale on Wednesday afternoon, July 10, 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Randy Wolfe of Imperial slogs through the flooded streets of Oakdale on Wednesday afternoon, July 10, 2013, after helping a friend evacuate.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Rennerdale volunteer firefighter Daniel Bright carries Cheryl McLuckie to safety from her home along Noblestown Road in Oakdale as floodwaters surround her home on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Gwen Titley | Tribune-Review
Debris and a vehicle block Banksville Road on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
An exhausted Frank Truzzi, 68, of Bridgeville takes a break on his front porch after cleaning mud caused by floodwaters from the basement of his home on Baldwin Street in Bridgeville on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. Truzzi said he was worried that the damage to his basement will be too costly to repair because he is on a fixed income.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Grounds crew members prepare the tarp before heavy rains rolled over PNC Park on Wednesday, July10, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Elwood Weissert of Bridgeville cleans off his shoes after trudging through mud on Baldwin Street after heavy rains caused severe flooding in Bridgeville on Wednesday, July 10, 2013.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Storm clouds mar the Pittsburgh skyline on Wednesday, July10, 2013, at PNC Park.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Andrew Russell took first place in the Natural Disaster category. His photo, titled “A Helping Hand,” showed a rescue worker and a flood evacuee who shared a light moment while holding hands and slogging through floodwaters in Bridgeville on July 10, 2013.
JC Schisler
Marilyn Mance, owner of Executrim Family Hair Salon & Wig Center, reacts to her business being destroyed by flash flooding that occurred behind her building on Bower Hill Road in Scott on Wednesday morning, July 10, 2013. A large storm pipe and drain behind her building were overpowered by the severe rain waters. Mance said this isn't the first time the building has been affected by the drain. She and her husband, Frank, own the building, which is home to two other businesses. Those businesses also were destroyed.
JC Schisler
A foam head and other debris from Marilyn Mance's business, Executrim Family Hair Salon & Wig Center, is strewn along Bower Hill Road in Scott after stormwaters flooded her building and washed past Painters Run Road. Flash flooding from heavy rains on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, devastated parts of the region.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Denis McCormick catches one of his 11 displaced Japanese koi in the receding floodwater in his yard along Hoza Way in Mt. Pleasant. His yard flooded with 2 feet of water as a result of the rainstorms which soaked the region. A full story on the flooding in the borough and additional photos appear on Page 3. Photo taken Wednesday, July 10, 2013

In homes and businesses throughout the South Hills and into the Mon Valley, rain-weary neighbors on Wednesday cleaned the mess left by flash floods and prepared for more storms.

Drenching rain inundated communities and prompted dramatic rescues from rooftops and cars. People living and working along Saw Mill Run, Streets Run, Chartiers Creek and Robinson Run said such storms are part of life.

“It's not our first rodeo,” Gary Schemm said as he lit a cigarette and sat down in the lobby of Ronnie's Tires on Route 51 in Overbrook as fellow employees power-washed mud from the garages and lot. Carpet cleaners were on their way, and Schemm expected to open on Thursday.

“Good ol' Saw Mill Creek,” he said.

The creek covered Route 51 for hours, a scene repeated in towns south and west of the Ohio and Monongahela rivers as up to 3 inches of rain fell quickly in the morning, and more dropped through the evening. Officials reported no serious injuries.

Possible tornadoes were reported as a late-afternoon line of storms spun through several communities and toppled trees across the region, leaving thousands of residents without electricity.

Many called it the worst flooding they experienced since the remnants of Hurricane Ivan dropped nearly 6 inches of rain on Western Pennsylvania nine days after Hurricane Frances left more than 3 inches in September 2004.

“Compared to Ivan, this isn't as bad,” Lea Lester said as people helped her and husband Jim set up pumps to get water out of their home on Clinton Avenue Extension in hard-hit Oakdale. “What was good about Ivan was you got to meet friends and neighbors, and you worked together to make it through.”

States of emergency

Oakdale and Elizabeth Borough were among 13 Allegheny County communities that declared emergencies.

Elizabeth Council President Monica Glowinski said flooding washed out Irwin Street, which she described as “the only access road for some of our residents.”

In Pittsburgh, the worst flooding happened along the Route 51 and Banksville Road corridors, which crews closed until about 3 p.m., and again after the evening rush.

Allegheny County swift-water rescue teams — which officials assembled after a flash flood in Highland Park killed four people stuck in cars on Washington Boulevard in 2011 — snatched at least seven people and two dogs from rising water, said Scott Deutsch, the county's assistant chief of emergency operations.

One person, whom Deutsch described as elderly, was hospitalized. He said the 911 center received 2,617 calls, double the typical 1,300.

As more warnings were issued before dinnertime, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss encouraged people to stay off roads.

“Tonight is the night to stay home and watch a movie,” Huss said. “It's very important people really take this seriously.”

Oakdale and Elizabeth set up shelters for people forced from their homes, and officials in Findlay and Shaler prepared shelters. The Salvation Army set up disaster command centers in Bridgeville and Jefferson Hills.

Port Authority closed part of its T service on the Library line, and officials said it might remain closed on Thursday morning because of debris and flooding on tracks. Allegheny County closed the Boyce Park Wave Pool, South Park Golf Course and Round Hill Park Spray Park.

“This was the worst I've seen in probably 20 years,” said Jay Slobodnyak, owner of Option Automotive on Streets Run Road in Baldwin Borough. “The guardrail is just hanging by the rail. Pretty regularly, we get a good rain, and you can be pretty sure that Streets Run is going to be closed.”

Cleanup begins

When water receded, mud-caked streets were visible in Oakdale's small downtown.

“I've never seen it like this before,” said Gena Lander, who lives a block from the business district. The flooding forced her to call off work.

“I can't move my car,” she said. “There's really nothing you can do. What are you going to do? I have flood insurance. We'll deal with it.”

Pat Conieczny, owner of nearby Thomas & Little Funeral Home, said water rose 2 feet in his basement.

“We had 25 feet of water in 2004 and $400,000 of damage. This is not that bad,” he said.

Robinson Run and a creek on the other side of town flooded to form what neighbors described as a lake after about 15 minutes of hard rain, Oakdale police Chief Jim Lauria said. It flooded two dozen homes.

Trying to keep his living room dry, Roy Locke opened screened windows in the basement of his Clinton Avenue home so water could flow through and out a storm shelter access door.

“It's my indoor pool,” Locke joked of the 8 feet of water that reached the rafters of the first floor. “I'd like to see them at least do some dredging (of Robinson Run). It might give us a fighting chance.”

Jim Ciamacco, owner of the 85-year-old Schmidt Tavern on Cliff Mine Road in Findlay, said there was 4 feet of water in the bar's basement.

“We lost food. The refrigerator and freezer were floating in all of the water,” he said.

The tavern is across the street from Montour Run and Montour Trail.

“That trail looks horrible. I wonder if they will be able to fix it,” he said.

‘Where's more water gonna go?'

Business owners and crews spent much of the afternoon trying to avoid more damage.

“We have sandbags ready for the next one,” said Julie Fish, cashier at Citgo Fueland convenience store on McNeilly Road in Baldwin Township.

The Pittsburgh Public Works Redd-Up crew assembled teams on Banksville Road to clear drains, spillways and creeks of debris.

“The next thing is to get the culverts cleared out, cut the (fallen) trees up with chain saws so it can all just wash through,” said foreman Ray Rogalsky.

Some people didn't plan to stick around.

Matt Maximovich pushed water out of his Oakdale front yard with a snow shovel. Despite his attempts to pump out his basement, water flooded the lower portion of his home, Maximovich said. He moved Christmas decorations and other items to higher ground.

“We're getting out of here,” Maximovich said. “I don't want to be here if the water comes up again. Where's more water gonna go?”

Trib Total Media staff writers Aaron Aupperlee, Chris Togneri, Pat Cloonan, Mike Wereschagin, Tom Fontaine, Matthew Santoni, Jim Wilhelm, Rick Wills and Bobby Cherry contributed to this report.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.