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Sutersville dries out from flood

By Alicia McElhaney
Friday, May 30, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

John Rack spent Thursday trying to scoop up the sticky mud that flood waters left behind Thursday at his Sutersville used car business.

“It never did this in my 16 years of working here,” said Rack, whose Superior Motors lot was left submerged in about 212 feet of water when Little Sewickley Creek overflowed its banks during a storm on Wednesday.

Rack said he lost about 21 vehicles in the flood.

Businesses between Sutersville and Lowber remained closed for cleanup as residents tried to salvage furniture and personal items from the water and muck.

Jim and Jess Huston have lived next door to Superior Motors for five years in a home Jess' grandfather built 60 years ago.

“This never happened here before,” Jess Huston said.

The Hustons' basement flooded, destroying carpeting and their three children's toys.

The flood caused a gas leak, which nearly forced the Hustons to evacuate, like the two other families who live along Rear First Street. Fortunately, Columbia Gas quickly repaired the problem, Jim Huston said.

The American Red Cross brought the family brooms, bleach and other cleaning supplies to deal with the mess, he said.

“We're providing temporary shelter for those two (displaced) families,” said Kevin Brown, spokesman for the Westmoreland-Armstrong Chapter of the American Red Cross. “(Damage at) the other homes, most of them along First Street, was not serious enough to dislodge the residents, but we are providing them with some cleanup kits.”

Among them were Sherry McLay and her family. Water flooded the basement, destroying her daughter's bedroom.

“Water just kept coming in,” McLay said. “It was a freak of nature. The way it came, I was just scared.”

McLay said friends helped with the cleanup, but it will take weeks of work to get her home back to normal.

The Hustons have already turned their concerns to the next storm because of chronic backups, they said.

“I hope they clean out the rocks blocking up the creek,” Jess Huston said.

Paul Rupnik Jr., Sewickley Township emergency management agency director, said stormwater running off hillsides was a bigger problem than the creek overflowing.

Down the road, other homes and businesses experienced stormwater backups. Though it was the first time in memory that the area was flooded by the creek, stormwater issues aren't rare, some said.

Anthony Casoni, who owns Casoni's Garage, said this was the third time his garage has been flooded by stormwater. He had to close his business to clean up.

“Something needs to be done,” Casoni said. “It's not like this is the first time. This shouldn't happen.”

Despite his frustration, Casoni offered a hand at Rack's garage before cleaning his own.

“I have my own mess to clean up, but there's a bigger one here,” he said, gesturing toward Superior Motors.

Alicia McElhaney is an intern for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-6220 or



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