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County braces for possible flooding

| Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, 1:46 a.m.

Expected warmer temperatures and rain have Armstrong County emergency officials planning for possible flooding this weekend.

Officials plan to monitor ice along the Allegheny River all weekend, especially in areas where the river features dramatic bends and curves — such as Parker, Brady's Bend, Templeton, Kittanning, Ford City and Manorville, according to Randy Brozenick, the county's director of public safety. The monitoring will enable officials to take quick actions to help people if flooding starts.

“The big fear is we have a really warm day, and if we get a storm on that day, we could have a quick thaw,” Brozenick said. “That is going to create breaking in some ice, which could cause jams and some flooding.”

Temperatures are predicted to reach highs of 45 degrees on Saturday and 35 degrees on Sunday, according to a National Weather Service forecast. The NWS forecasts an 80 percent chance of rain Saturday night that will continue into Sunday and then turn to snow.

NWS meteorologist Joe Palko said the region is faced with a bigger flood threat on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We're expecting up to an inch of rain, which could give the Allegheny River a rise of one to two feet,” Palko said. “That could be enough to get some of the ice moving around.”

But whether the thick ice thaws and starts breaking up this weekend is anyone's guess.

“The air is very dry and we're not going to see a lot of sun this weekend, and we're only expecting about a quarter-inch of rain,” he said. “It's going to dip down to freezing or below at night, so that should slow the breaking of the ice.”

Thick ice already has caused problems this year in Armstrong County. Mild temperatures two weeks ago loosened ice floes on the Allegheny River, causing flooding and driving ice and debris ashore, damaging property and forcing road closures along Rimer Road in Madison. The ice and water blocked roadways, leaving several families stranded.

Those types of problems can be expected again with the growing ice problem on the river, Brozenick said.

Brozenick said anybody along the river must be prepared to leave the area if flood waters rise. He suggested people in homes along the river remove valuables from their basements.

“I can't tell you when the ice will jam — it could happen today or a month from now,” Brozenick said. “But we need to stay prepared and to move and not wait around.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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