Flooding closes recreation areas as holiday weekend under way
Campers, fishermen and boaters will feel the effect through Labor Day weekend of recent storms that dumped 2 to 3 inches of rain on parts of seven Southwestern Pennsylvania counties.
The Pittsburgh District of the Army Corps of Engineers announced on Friday that high water has forced it to limit recreational use of its lakes and other facilities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Public affairs specialist Dan Jones said it's unfortunate the closures came during one of the busiest vacation weekends of the year, but the Corps felt it was necessary because of the hazards the high waters pose.
“We just had such a large amount of rainfall in such a short period of time over such a wide area, there was really no choice,” he said. “We wanted to get the word out there for people to check before they waste money on gas driving out only to find when they get there that their favorite camping, beach or boat launch area is closed.”
At Conemaugh Lake in Indiana and Westmoreland counties, Aultman's Run and Bow Ridge boat ramps are closed. They are expected to remain closed through the holiday weekend.
At Armstrong County's Crooked Creek Lake, Tunnelville Beach and the boat launch are closed through Monday because of high water and cleanup requirements.
The boat launch and campground at Loyalhanna Lake in Westmoreland's Bush Recreation Area will remain closed through the weekend because of high water and cleanup requirements.
Doe Run Pleasant Creek Wildlife Management Area at Tygart Lake in Grafton, W.Va., south of Fairmont, has closed. It may reopen by Sunday.
In Fayette and Somerset counties, the Youghiogheny Lake Mill Run Recreation Area will have a partial campground closure. The facility's beach and launch ramp; Jockey Hollow Boat Launch; Tub Run Campground, beach and walk-in tent sites; and the spillway recreation area and beach are expected to remain closed through the weekend.
The counties where heavy rain fell Wednesday morning and afternoon were Armstrong, Crawford, Butler, Fayette, Indiana, Somerset and Westmoreland.
“It's been a very long time” since closures over such a large area were ordered, Jones said.
“Only last year, we had to close a couple of boat launch areas this time of year because of the lack of water because we had so little rain,” he said. “But we are hoping we are able to open up some of the areas this weekend. People will have to just keep on checking with the facility they plan to visit.”
Jones warned people who have private docks along the lakes to use “extreme caution” if they take out boats.
“We issued that warning because many hazards that were on shore, such as logs or posts, are now afloat in the water. And some of the hazards close to shore are covered by water,” he said.
“We hope anyone venturing out uses extreme caution, because those hazards do exist,” Jones said.
Visitors should check status updates before traveling to the lakes. The Corps warned visitors to use extreme caution while on the lake during any high-water period.
For daily lake information, check on the recreation locations via the Internet at http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/Missions/WaterManagement/ReservoirForecast.aspx or via Facebook.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.