Tales of flooding, rescues and cleanup
People across Western Pennsylvania awoke to flooding and drove into major messes as storms dumped up to 3 inches of rain on Wednesday. Their stories:
Water poured into rooms at the Days Inn on Banksville Road, flooding Tom and Nichelle Cassidy's room to their knees and sending debris drifting down the hallway. A staircase turned into a waterfall.
“We started pounding on doors to ... wake other people up,” said Nichelle Cassidy, 28, of Spring Hill, Fla. “It was knee-high in the hallway, like something out of the Titanic.
“The girl in the room next to us got a shock from her iPhone that was plugged in near the floor.”
Mike Swenson, 33, of Oakland, Calif., said he and his friends woke to find water in the parking lot up to cars' doors. They were trying to find another way to get Downtown for the Pirates-A's game.
“We'd rather be trapped Downtown than trapped out here,” he said. “We've been bringing the rain with us to Cleveland, Toronto, here. ... Look for it in Philadelphia next.”
DeAnne Orive, owner of Grand Slam Grooming, a pet grooming business on Bower Hill Road in Scott, was listening to the rain and waiting for her first client about 8 a.m. when the wall behind her suddenly started moving. She ran from the building just as it filled with water.
“I heard a ‘whoosh,' and the wall behind me came forward. I ran out the exit, and then the window behind me crashed open,” she said.
Scott officials condemned the building, which contains Orive's business, Executrim hair salon and an insurance agency. Firefighters had to break windows to allow the water to flow out of the building. A retaining wall collapsed and spilled bricks and flood waters onto a parking lot along Bower Hill.
Husband and wife Frank and Marilyn Mance of Upper St. Clair have owned the building since 1994.
Marilyn Mance runs Executrim. Mannequin heads with wigs on them surrounded her on the floor as she stood in the flooded businesses. Yellow Splenda packets, carried by the floodwaters, stuck to the walls.
“It's destroyed,” she said. “What do you say? You see your whole life just go down the tubes.”
Members of the Owl's Club on Baldwin Street in Bridgeville renewed a grand tradition when water flooded the basement and crept up to a level of 5 feet on the first floor.
They pumped water out of the basement onto the street. They then enjoyed a few beers, just as they said their comrades did during previous floods at the social club.
“There's nothing you can do,” said Brian Carnahan, 57, of Bridgeville and a member of the club, which opened in 1911. “This was just, bang, 15 minutes. It was just unbelievable.”
Carnahan said water covered the cab of a beer truck parked near the club in 15 minutes. Members said the water was about 3 inches lower than flooding caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Thomas Drucis, owner of Investors Capital, said he just bought his building on Baldwin Street in January. He spent $30,000 to renovate it and opened in March.
“That's why you have insurance,” Drucis said. “You can't live in a flood plain without it.”
Contractor Rick Cardiello, 50, lost hundreds of dollars' worth of hardwood stored in his basement and garage when water came downhill from the Mt. Lebanon Golf Course into his driveway, at the bottom of Chestnut Avenue in Castle Shannon.
“I already took a truckload out to the dump. I didn't even want to look at it, I was so disgusted with it,” he said. “I didn't buy a house next to a river, creek or stream, so I shouldn't have to deal with this as often as I do.”
Water gushing down the steps behind his house put a hole in his driveway 6 inches deep, exposing the pipe from his downspout and tree roots. He said water in his basement and garage came up about an inch and a half; enough to ruin the materials he uses to build cabinets. Luckily, he said, his current project was up on milk crates; all he lost were materials and a day's worth of labor.
“It was like a disaster zone this morning when I came in,” said Chris Goetzman, store manager at Carquest Auto Parts on West Liberty Avenue in Brookline. He said when he got to work, garbage cans, rocks and logs were strewn on West Liberty.
Heavy rainwater from Stetson Street, which is beside Carquest, poured into the stockroom from under a closed door. The water was being collected by a $16,000 drainage system Carquest installed last summer because crumbling curbing on Stetson was sending water into the business, Goetzman said.
In the parking lot in front of the store, employees shoveled debris three times between 8 and 11 a.m., said Paul Thomas, a Carquest delivery driver.
RJ Netz stood outside a garage bay door at Monro Muffler Brake and Service at Library and McNeilly roads in Overbrook smoking the last of a cigar. Water from a creek across Library rose fast and filled the garage with about 2 feet of water, he said.
“That creek has flooded me out seven times. This is the worst,” said Netz, a district manager for the company. “We don't know the damage until we can get to everything.”
Netz said employees scrambled to lift tools, parts and vehicles off the garage floor when the water rose. As workers serviced vehicles in the afternoon, they danced around puddles on the floor.
Sewage systems backed up and forced water into the basements of homes on Milford Drive in Bethel Park.
“It's not just water. It's water and sewage. It's disgusting,” said Joe Scarillo, who described the damage to his basement as the worst in the 25 years he's lived in his home.
The wastewater came through the toilet, sink and shower into the basement, Scarillo said, and he worries about how long it will take to get a restoration company.
His neighbor Ed Urian said he had 6 inches of water in his basement.
“This problem is caused by the sewer system. The pipes aren't big enough,” he said.
Linda Alukonis, 52, has lived in a house on Brentwood Road in Baldwin Borough all of her life. She's grown used to the flooding, she said.
“It happens all of the time,” Alukonis said.
This past fall, she had a generator-run sump pump installed in her home. That came in handy when the electricity went out about 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.
Trib Total Media staff writers Matthew Santoni, Andrew Conte, Salena Zito, Megan Guza, Tory Parrish, Aaron Aupperlee, Brittany Goncar, Stephanie Hacke and Michael DiVittorio contributed to this report.