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No danger of Yough flooding in Connellsville

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Bill Shirley | Daily Courier
Vito Martucci stands on the banks of the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Martucci has some experience of watching the high waters and has dealt with flooding. His funeral home is located at 123 First St.

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Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 5:54 p.m.

When the snow starts to melt, Vito Martucci watches the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville closely.

He doesn't have to be too worried right now.

According to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, there's not much of a chance of flooding this weekend along the Yough in Connellsville.

Martucci and residents who live along the Yough in Connellsville agree. After all, they know what to look for when it comes to possible flooding.

“The only thing to worry about is for those people who live along smaller creeks and streams,” said Lee Hendricks, meteorologist. “They should be alert for ice jams where they live or along (low-lying) roads on their way to work. It is really not much of a problem.”

According to Hendricks, the Youghiogheny should crest at Connellsville on Saturday at 7.3 feet, well below the flood stage of 12 feet.

The weather service has issued a wind advisory from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday with winds expected from 20 to 30 mph with gusts from 45 to 55 mph.

Martucci is owner of Vito C. Martucci Funeral Home on South First Street, along the west bank of the Youghiogheny.

“There is not a threat right now,” said Martucci, who started his business in 1973.

He said there have been several major floods in the 40 years he has been at the location. “I can pretty much predict when it will happen.”

Hendricks said a heavy rain right now would also not likely cause flooding.

“The biggest issue is the snowmelt and rainfall,” he said. “If we have a heavy rain, we might lose a little bit of the snow, but the (remaining) snow is going to absorb the rainfall.”

Martucci agreed, adding the overnight temperatures and conditions in the mountains to the south also have a large impact on what happens in Connellsville.

“If you have low temperatures, especially a low temperature in the night, it shuts off the rise in the river like a spigot,” said Martucci.

Most flooding on the Youghiogheny at Connellsville comes from uncontrolled runoff from the Casselman River, which enters the Youghiogheny below the Youghiogheny Reservoir, he said.

Werner Loehlein, chief of water management for the Pittsburgh District of the Army Corps of Engineers, agreed. He said most flooding results from the drainage in the Casselman River and Laurel Hill Creek. The drainage for those systems covers 1,326 square miles. The drainage for the Youghiogheny Reservoir covers just 434 square miles.

Some people have complained that releases from the Youghiogheny Reservoir have caused flooding problems on their properties. Loehlein said releases from the Youghiogheny Reservoir are limited to a maximum of a half-foot at any one time and is done at 9 a.m. If that is not enough, a second release may be done at noon.

“A release from the Youghiogheny Reservoir to Connellsville takes three hours,” said Loehlein. “If they see a rise at night, it's not water from the dam. Our people only work eight hours.”

He said the last releases from the reservoir took place on Feb. 6. The two releases lowered the level by 5 inches each time.

Martucci said several years ago it looked like flooding was imminent. He purchased sand from Stone & Co. of Connellsville, and volunteers helped him and his family race to protect his buildings. McDonald's sent food over for the volunteers.

Fortunately, the expected flood did not reach high enough to damage his buildings.

According to Hendricks, the only problem now with ice jams is on the Youghiogheny at Sutersville well down river, on the border between Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.

There should be few problems with structures with the accumulations of snow and ice, according to officials.

According to Tom Currey, Connellsville's health, code and zoning officer, there is little chance of the snow's causing severe problems with the roofs.

“We did not get that much snow,” said Currey, adding someone might have a problem if their building has a structurally compromised roof. “It usually takes a lot of snow or a lot of snow with ice.”

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-626-3538.

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