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Flood cleanup continues in South Connellsville

| Friday, July 5, 2013, 5:00 p.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Marvin Striner, a street worker for South Connellsville Borough, sweeps away debris left by flood waters along Wine Street in South Connellsville on Friday.

The impact of the rains that hammered the area this week are still being felt in South Connellsville, a borough that found its firefighters busy with pumpings, physical rescues and assistance.

The two rounds of storms that hit late Monday night and Tuesday morning brought nearly 4 inches of rain in a four-hour time span from Connellsville to Uniontown, resulting in flooded streets and basements.

During those rains, the South Connellsville Volunteer Fire Department responded to more than 70 flooded homes.

Borough workers and residents alike are still cleaning up from this week's flooding.

Flash flooding occurs in many cases when the grounds get saturated from previous rains and a sudden downpour causes the rain not to soak into the ground. Also, sudden downpours can cause creeks to overflow.

A flooded creek in the borough caused the worst of the flooding along Hyndman Street and McCormick Avenue.

“It devastated the whole area,” said South Connellsville Fire Chief Steve Helms. Helms said 22 firefighters from his department responded to incidents from 10 p.m. Monday to 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Helms said many of the basements in the 1600 block of Hyndman Street experienced nearly seven feet of flood waters, with some residents having the water rise to the first floor in their homes.

“We had to open a manhole and pump the water out of that,” Helms said. Firefighters had to pump the water out for seven and a half hours, which caused the fuel in their tanker to go empty.

Helms said the total cost of fuel used was more than $300. The department utilized eight pumps and the fire-engine pump. Helms and another firefighter took the chiefs' personal vehicle to some calls.

One call involved two adults and two children trapped in a car in four feet of water. They were trying to drive through a heavily-flooded area.

Helms said firemen received the call from police.

He said firemen arrived and pulled the occupants out of the vehicle through the windows and then drove them to safety.

“I've never seen anything like that before,” Helms said of the conditions.

To make matters worse, a call to assist Connellsville Township with a structure fire came in during the flooding calls.

Helm decided to send two trucks to assist Connellsville Township while the rest of the fire department officials stayed in the borough; he also dispatched Dawson VFD to assist borough residents.

No injuries were reported in the flooding incidents or the structure fire.

While the fire department used what it learned in its river-rescue training, Helms said he received the best incident command training during the flooding. He said if the rains would come the same way again, he knows what areas of the borough will be hit the hardest.

The borough and its residents are still cleaning up. Helms said cleanup could continue for several more days.

Fayette County residents that sustained damages caused by the recent flooding (beyond basement flooding) who have not met with or spoken to Emergency Management Officials are asked to contact Fayette County EMA 724-430-1277.

The agency with PEMA and local emergency coordinators have been conducting damage assessment throughout the area and will continue to do so as needed.

South Connellsville Mayor Pete Casini declared a state of emergency in the borough on Tuesday.

“In all the years I've been here, this is the worst I've ever seen,” Casini said.

“It looked like a river coming down McCormick Avenue.”

“Many homes had water in their basements, and they lost everything,” Casini said.

“I had one lady tell me she lost $25,000 worth of stuff.”

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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