Dawson hit hard by heavy rain

| Saturday, June 29, 2013, 12:21 a.m.

Flash flooding from heavy rain on Friday closed roads, flooded basements and caused damage and hardships in Dawson Borough and surrounding areas.

About 2 p.m. Friday, Billy Colbert, Dawson Volunteer Fire Company chief, received a call of creeks in the borough overflowing and storm drains backing up.

“There was about a foot-and-a-half to 2 feet of water on Main Street,” Colbert said.

The heavy rains and large hail were responsible not only for flooding in the borough and Lower Tyrone Township, but trees fell on roadways and in yards, more than 15 residential basements flooded, a bridge washed out, and a small mudslide blocked Route 819.

“It was nothing big,” Colbert said of the mudslide, “but it was enough to stop traffic.”

Traffic was rerouted as the roads closed included Main Street, Hickman Run Road, Jimtown Road and River Road.

A section of Main Street in Dawson received the worst of the flooding as a collection of houses were hit by an overflowing creek behind their homes and runoff from across the street.

“Everything on my first floor is flooded,” said Tanya Null, who said floodwaters filled her basement and reached the first floor, damaging her refrigerator, freezer and other items. “Everything on the first floor had to be thrown away.”

Null said everything on her back porch was washed away by the waters, including a cat and her three kittens.

Null's daughter, Aleesha Thomas, 12, was home with her sisters when the floodwaters came. She called her mother.

“It was pretty scary,” Thomas said as she saw the water flood her home in about five minutes. “I thought I was literally going to die.”

Even though the fire department pumped her basement, Null said, she still has much to clean up.

Colbert said he called in South Connellsville VFC and DL&V VFD for assistance in pumping basements and clearing debris from the roadway.

“It's a mess out there pretty much everywhere,” said Bob Coblentz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for both Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

Coblentz said such warnings are issued after an area has received rain for a couple of days, which causes the ground to become saturated.

Depending on how saturated the ground becomes, Coblentz said 80 to 90 percent of that rainfall becomes all runoff and has to go somewhere. Because of the steep terrain in areas like Dawson, that runoff finds its way into the creeks and streams, and they begin to swell, resulting in quick flooding.

While rain totals were not official as of press time, Coblentz said, about a half-an-inch to an inch of rain fell Friday afternoon in Fayette County, and what made it a danger was the short amount of time in which the rain fell.

“A lot of flash flooding is pretty much what we got,” Coblentz said.

Fayette County Emergency Management Agency reported several incidents from the rain on its Facebook page, including numerous flooded roadways and a vehicle collision on Route 119 at the Everson exit southbound as a vehicle hydroplaned into a hillside.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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