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Floods threaten Parker drinking water

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 10:04 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger
A person stands out on the large chunks of ice as another takes a photograph along River Avenue in Parker, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014.
Louis B. Ruediger
Senior water and sewage operator for the Parker Area Authority, Scott Parks, 61, secures equipment at the water intake along North River Avenue in Parker, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014.

Flooding has Parker officials fearing that the steadily rising Allegheny River could take out the plant that provides the city with its drinking water.

The area has been hit by floods since last weekend and with the problems expected to get worse, city officials are reviewing evacuation plans and Armstrong County crews are readying emergency water supplies should the river reach the low-lying Parker Area Authority building.

While most of the city is above areas subject to flooding, the plant and a few homes and businesses are in the low-lying area along Route 268.

“Their biggest concern is going to be losing water, and there really isn't much anybody can do about it,” county Emergency Management Coordinator Randy Brozenik said. “All we can do is make sure the people in the area are all right, wait for floodwaters to go away, then go pick up the pieces. Right now, it wouldn't take much for floodwaters to reach that water plant.”

Parker, northern Armstrong and portions of Clarion County along the river remain under a flood warning until 7 p.m. Thursday because of ice jams, according to Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Moon.

Last weekend's warm temperatures and sunshine caused significant ice movement on the river, especially around Parker, Rimer and Foxburg in Clarion.

The river rose by 9 feet over 2 12 hours on Saturday to 23 feet in Parker, which is considered minor flooding, Hendricks said.

As the week continues, the National Weather Service expects temperatures to remain frigid and cloudy.

“Through Sunday, we're going to see more ice forming than melting,” Hendricks said. “If anything, the ice should thicken.”

He estimated the ice is between six and 12 inches thick and is forming piles from three to seven feet high.

By Monday, temperatures could rise above freezing, which may not be enough to thin the ice.

“It looks like it will be 10 days before we get a decent thaw, so we're not expecting more flooding soon,” Mayor William McCall said. “But there is a jam on the river between Oil City and Emlenton, and if it breaks, we're expecting to see more flooding issues.”

Last weekend, city officials noted up to two feet of water in places near the Parker Area Authority, McCall said.

McCall said emergency officials helped two elderly residents evacuate their homes along the river on Sunday. Although there were no injuries, he said officials want to make sure they're prepared to respond quickly to help more residents out of their homes if the water rises again.

“The water was coming close to their house, so we needed to get them out,” McCall said. “Things went well, but we just want to be prepared and make sure things go as smooth as possible.”

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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