No wonderland: 1st the threat of flooding, then ice storm, then snow
Ahead of a winter storm threatening to wallop the area with ice and snow, record-breaking rain brought flooding to large parts of the Alle-Kiski Valley on Friday.
The weather service announced just before 5:30 p.m. Friday that a flood warning was in effect until 5:15 a.m. Saturday for northwestern Westmoreland, Allegheny, Armstrong and Butler counties, among others.
The weather service said water was expected to begin receding late Friday night and into Saturday.
Pittsburgh easily broke the more-than-century-old daily record for precipitation for Jan. 12.
The weather service said 1.64 inches of rain had fallen through 5 p.m. — with more on the way.
It broke the old record from 1907 of 0.97-inch, which had stood for 111 years.
Because of the winter storm, PennDOT temporarily reduced the speed limit to 45 mph on several roadways in Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties, including Route 28; Interstates 79, 279, 376 and 579; and US 22/30.
PennDOT urged drivers to avoid unnecessary travel.
Early morning small stream flooding caused New Kensington-Arnold and Lower Burrell school districts to delay start of classes Friday morning.
New Kensington-Arnold Superintendent John Pallone said Pucketa Creek had left its banks, causing some flooding along Seventh Street. The water left debris near the Valley High School tennis courts.
In Murrysville, police shut down a section of lower Ashbaugh Road between Saltsburg and Mamont roads after a mudslide blocked the road around 10:30 a.m. The road was cleared about 1:30 p.m.
Elsewhere in the Alle-Kiski Valley, the rain caused flooding and closed part of Bull Creek Road at Iron Bridge Road in Fawn.
Basements, roads flood
Jim Schilling, who has lived in the 1800 block of Bull Creek Road in Fawn for nine years, said the creek went over its banks around 7 in the morning. His basement flooded — and the backed up sewer kept it there.
"My basement had about a foot-and-a-half of water in it, which didn't drain through the sewer," he said. "At that point, the sewer is not effective anymore. It doesn't work."
Schilling said he keeps a lot of stuff in his basement, but keeps it elevated.
But possessions aren't the only concern.
"Every time it floods, the flooding deteriorates my foundation a little bit more," he said. "It gets worse every time."
Schilling said he still had a steady stream of water in his basement seeping through the foundation Friday night, but by then the sewer had started working again, and it was draining.
"Tomorrow will be a nice day of cleaning everything up and sanitizing everything," he said.
A bigger problem in Armstrong
Flooding, from streams and the Allegheny River, was a problem in many Armstrong County locations.
Numerous roads were closed throughout the day, Armstrong County Public Safety Director Bill Hamilton said.
Glade Run flooded, closing Glade Run Road between Route 128 in Cadogan and Pony Farm Road in North Buffalo. It was reopened by 3:30 p.m., PennDOT said.
Other small streams flooded and closed parts of Worthington-Slate Lick Road, and Bear Road, between Yellow Dog Road and Green Acres Road in West Franklin.
Nicola Road/Mushroom Farm Road was closed between Hindman Hill Road and the Butler County line in West Franklin.
As the day wore on, the rain let up. Sleet, ice and freezing rain was expected before the precipitation would change over to snow.
Some Bull Creek Road residents expected ponds in their yards to freeze into ice skating rinks.
Ice jams were a threat on small streams as well as area rivers, particularly in Armstrong County.
Hamilton said an ice jam was causing water to rise rapidly on the Allegheny River between the Rimer area and East Brady. The ice had stopped moving, and authorities were trying to locate it Friday evening.
Hamilton said they knew of one home on Rimerton Road that was surrounded by water from the river.
Uncertainty about additional rain and runoff still flowing into the river made figuring out if things would get better or worse difficult as the night went on.
"It's very difficult to say what might happen over the next few hours," Hamilton said Friday evening.
To prepare for ice problems, the Army Corps of Engineers "stripped anything mechanical" at Lock 5, Ford City, as well as any loose equipment, spokesman Jeff Hawk said.
Lock 4 at Natrona in Harrison was placed on the "action phase" by the Corps.
"We're watching," he said.
The Corps had a grant to study how to flood-proof Bradys Bend.
Hawk said a public meeting will be held this summer to review what the study showed.
Chuck Biedka and Brian C. Rittmeyer are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Biedka at 724-226-4711, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka; reach Rittmeyer at 724-226-4701, email@example.com or on Twitter @BCRittmeyer.