South Hills soaked by heavy rain; crews close roads, monitor rising rivers
Heavy rain pounded Pittsburgh's South Hills Wednesday night, inundating waterways and already wet hillsides with more than 2 inches of rain in less than an hour and spurring vehicle rescue operations, home evacuations and a slew of major road closures.
Shortly after 9 p.m., a rescue team's motorized raft cruised along Route 51 searching for stranded vehicles near McNeilly Road while a commercial-sized Dumpster floated nearby.
A family of five had to flee their minivan after getting stuck on Mifflin Road, Trib news partner WPXI-TV reported. One Carrick resident used brooms to sweep out the water soaking his hardwood floors after coming home to a basement filled with storm water about 6 inches deep.
There were no initial reports of major injuries.
VIDEO: Whoa! Check this out! This Carrick homeowner tells me he walked into 6 inches of water in his basement when he got home this evening. He's now sweeping water out of his house. #WPXI pic.twitter.com/FQdYBZ2n4y— Marlisa Goldsmith (@WPXIMarlisa) May 17, 2018
The flash flood warning in effect for central Allegheny County expired at 10:15 p.m., with meteorologists reporting that the heaviest rain had ended and floodwaters were receding. A warning remained in effect for Westmoreland County through 12:45 a.m.
"At the peak of the stationary heavy rain event, several communities in the South Hills, Mon Valley and city of Pittsburgh were impacted," said Matt Brown, chief of emergency services for Allegheny County.
Flooding reports began to come in near Hutchinson, Sewickley Township, in Westmoreland County shortly after 10:30 p.m. with reports of one person rescued from a vehicle trapped in high water and some homes with water in their basements.
Among communities with the most storm-related emergency calls, according to Brown: Pittsburgh, Castle Shannon, McKeesport, Glassport, Baldwin Borough, Baldwin Township, West Mifflin and Mt. Lebanon.
Officials responded to reports of at least three flooded vehicles — two in Pittsburgh and another in Bridgeville, Brown said.
No landslides were reported as of 10 p.m., though flash floods caused multiple roads to collapse or wash out and knocked out a retaining wall along a building on Brownsville Road in Carrick.
In Baldwin Borough, stormwater covered the roadways and flowed into yards at Joseph and John streets; the creek near Becks Run Road overflowed with debris; and Middle Road washed out completely, officials reported on the county's Twitter feed.
In Bethel Park, flooding made Valley Drive at Library Road impassable, and the road was nearly impassable at Library Road and Killarney Drive in Castle Shannon.
By about 8:30 p.m., the National Weather Service in Moon said that the heavy rounds of rainfall over the South Hills finally appeared to be "tapering down or moving out" but warned that water levels could continue to rise through Friday.
A few nearly stationary showers/thunderstorms could cause some localized flooding in the Pittsburgh and Washington metro areas. Avoid roadways with high water and please report any flooding! pic.twitter.com/i90S1Lahvh— NWS Pittsburgh (@NWSPittsburgh) May 16, 2018
Finally beginning to see some dissipation in the rain rates over the South Hills, but still a lot of run off from the hills to contend with. Water will likely be rising in some low spots and creeks. Stay away from flood waters!— NWS Pittsburgh (@NWSPittsburgh) May 16, 2018
UPDATE Bridgeville: Both Swift Water Teams have been released. Remaining FD units are assessing pumping needs at this time.— Allegheny County (@Allegheny_Co) May 17, 2018
Officials urged all drivers to avoid trying to travel on any flooded roads, even if the water appears only a few feet deep.
Among roads affected by flooding:
• Middle Road between First Street and Agnew Road in Baldwin.
• Becks Run Road from Brownsville to Mifflin roads.
• Valley Drive at Library Road (Route 88).
• Route 51 from West End Bridge to Baldwin/Whitehall line.
• Route 88 between McNeilly Road and Route 51.
• Edgebrook Avenue in Brookline.
• Killarney Drive in Castle Shannon.
• Mayview Road at Boyce Road in South Fayette.
• Glass Run Road at Cathell Road in Baldwin.
• Mansfield Bridge and West Fifth Avenue in McKeesport.
• Lebanon Road in both directions from Irwin Run to Mifflin Road in West Mifflin.
• West Liberty Avenue between Cape May and Brookside (downed tree and wires blocking the road).
The forecast calls for patchy fog and scattered showers early Friday, mostly after 4 a.m.
Chances of showers and thunderstorms will continue through Monday, followed by a mostly sunny Tuesday with a high near 77.
A look at the evening sounding tells much of the story as to the cause of Flash Flooding near Pittsburgh tonight. It boils down to high moisture content and light winds. Any tall shower or thunderstorm could produce efficient long-duration rain. pic.twitter.com/9XyTVGsLF1— NWS Pittsburgh (@NWSPittsburgh) May 17, 2018
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-380-8514 or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.