ShareThis Page

Ice wrecks Armstrong homes along Allegheny River, prompting review

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 10:25 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Darl Emings surveys the damage to his camp on Rimer Road in Madison Township that was caused by ice and floods during the weekend. Tuesday, January 14, 2014.

Mild temperatures that followed last week's arctic blast loosened Allegheny River ice floes that floated with floodwater onto land, damaging property and making driving impossible on parts of Rimer Road in Madison Township.

Enormous chunks of ice and rising water blocked the road and stranded families, who couldn't leave their homes before barriers meant to stop cars from driving on a recreational bike and walking trail nearby were removed by a property owner with a backhoe.

The hours it took to remove the barriers delayed emergency crews from reaching property owners, prompting some to wonder whether their safety was secondary to concerns about Armstrong County's Rails to Trails corridor.

“I was surrounded on all four sides, and the only way out was through the trail,” said homeowner John Drayer. “It was impossible to get people out.”

His home sits on a higher elevation along the river, but between early Sunday and 11 a.m. that day, water had risen to cover all 13 steps leading to his home. Ice had torn away a deck on his house.

Rimer Road remained closed on Tuesday as township workers used heavy equipment to move the ice and debris. A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh warned boaters to use caution on the river, especially above Lock and Dam 9.

“It looks like an iceberg is sticking out of the river,” Rimer Road resident Glenn Dukovich said. “The ice pushed trailer camps around like tin boxes.”

Darl Emings is co-owner of a camp in Rimer near Lock 9.

About 1 p.m. Sunday, 4 feet of water poured through his stone structure, toppling a refrigerator and tipping over a bar. He was able to salvage some items, but several pieces of furniture and other items were beyond saving.

Insurance coverage is poor and doesn't cover the extent of damage, he said.

“Another month or two — maybe three — we'll get it fixed up,” Emings said.

Property damage aside, the residents pondered what kind of danger they might have been in had the flooding been worse. Before the recreational trail was built, the former train track would have been the first option for escaping the approaching water, Dukovich said.

There are about 14 families who live along that stretch of the river on the road that is also known as State Route 1004, he said. While Dukovich's property was not affected by the ice and flood debris, he said he was concerned about safety issues that could have arisen with the trail being blocked.

Residents contacted Ron Steffey, executive director of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust — which maintains Rails to Trails — by phone on Sunday and were given the go-ahead to move the barriers. The resident with the backhoe moved the concrete barriers before volunteer firefighters arrived.

“We've tried to work with the adjacent landowners to address concerns,” Steffey said on Tuesday.

All barriers have been moved off the trail since the weekend flooding.

“We've opened up the trail from Rimer to Mahoning so emergency responders can travel the trails,” he said.

The Allegheny Valley Land Trust plans to work with Distant and Pine-Templeton fire departments to come up with a contingency plan to prevent emergency access delays in the future, Steffey said.

One possible solution would be installing gates that can be easily opened for emergency access and doing away with the concrete barricades. Steffey invited property owners to email him at with their concerns and ideas.

“We need to find solutions,” he said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

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.