Cleanup begins as rain stops falling in Alle-Kiski Valley
When part of South Gosser Hill Road suddenly washed away Monday, it left Hyde Park with only one way in and out.
Borough residents will be able to use Lillian Road for access, but weight limits will keep delivery trucks off Murphy Street in town and that will create a dilemma, said borough Manager Tifanie Gagen. “This is a state road and they are going to have to help us soon.” she said.
Gagen was wearing her fire captain gear when she shot a remarkable video of the collapse.
“We were helping Allegheny Township Fire because they have this state road when trees fells. Then the water started, and I shot video,” she said.
The less than 30-second video posted on Facebook shows one big and two smaller trees uprooted across the road. Then, suddenly, a wall of water speeds down South Gosser.
Almost instantly, a large chunk of asphalt and the foundation below it falls into a ravine.
Then even more water cascades into the ravine.
In less than a minute, Hyde Park’s heavy truck route was eliminated.
PennDOT knows South Gosser Road as State Route 4095, said PennDOT District 12 safety spokesman Jay Ofsanik.
PennDOT maintenance staff will assess the road when the weather allows, he said.
“There’s no safe way to do that right now,” Gagen said.
When an inspection can be done, there may be alternatives.
“It’s possible that maybe one lane can be used,” Ofsanik said.
Any special funding decisions will have to wait a bit, he said.
After the storms abate and inspections are done, all districts will ask PennDOT headquarters what money is available.
“We have damage to 52 roads in District 12 alone,” Ofsanik said.
Rain stopped falling Monday after a weekend of nearly nonstop precipitation.
Authorities worked throughout the day to reopen roads that flooded or became blocked by downed trees or landslides as some residents dealt with problems at their homes.
Others kept their eyes on the rising Allegheny River, which was expected to crest late Monday at about 17.6 feet in Freeport. That’s below the 23-foot flood stage, but no one is allowed on the river and locks are shut down once the river reaches 16 feet.
The water level was expected to dip back below 16 feet by 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. It stood at 9.6 feet Friday before the rain started.
Lee Hendricks, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Moon, said the Allegheny was better off compared to other rivers in the region.
“The Lower Mon and Yough rivers got hit hardest and that always results in higher stages on the Ohio River,” Hendricks said late Monday afternoon. “The Point in Pittsburgh right now is at 26.6 feet and rising still. That’s 1.6 feet above flood stage.”
Despite being in better shape, Alle-Kiski residents were still preparing for residual flooding and potential damage to boats and docks.
Tarentum’s Cindy Hollenbaugh took her boat out of the water for the season on Monday.
“They’re calling for this river to be high for a while,” she said.
Much of the region saw more than 4 inches of rain over the weekend thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon. In the Alle-Kiski Valley, the Buffalo Township area saw the most with 4.7 inches from Friday through Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
Township Supervisors Chairman Ron Zampogna said there had been some flooding issues and some West Penn Power Customers lost power, but he described the situation as manageable.
The West Penn Power website showed nearly 600 people were out of power across Butler County around noon.
“Our road crews have been out diligently clearing the roads of any debris,” Zampogna said. “I have checked in with the township manager and the road crew to make sure if they needed anything.”
Emergency officials in Vandergrift, where 4.1 inches of rain fell, have been busy helping residents with flooded basements since Sunday.
“In my area, (we had) nine places that we pumped out,” said Steve Patoka, the borough’s emergency management coordinator. “This one isn’t too, too bad. I’ve seen it worse.”
Students at Valley Junior/Senior High School in New Kensington were dismissed early Monday as a precaution because ongoing steady rain caused Little Pucketa Creek to rise in front of the school.
“It’s at its peak right now,” Superintendent John Pallone said. “It’s probably the highest it’s been in the last 10 years.”
The rain also closed Bull Creek Road between Metz Road and Grimm Road in Fawn.
Brian Marra, owner of the Tarentum-based water restoration company Un-Flood-It, said he has been busy with calls for flooded basements all weekend.
“Water is seeping through foundation walls,” he said. “It only happens when the ground is completely saturated to the point where it has nowhere to go.”
Marra said they likely will be busy for the next few weeks helping residents remove water, sewage and mold from flooded homes.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald issued a disaster emergency declaration shortly after noon to free up more resources to respond to areas damaged by water and landslides, including at least one in O’Hara.
The disaster declaration is the county’s fourth this year. Before this year, the county hadn’t issued a disaster declaration since 2012, he said.
The county surpassed 40 inches of rain over the weekend, exceeding the annual average of 38.19 inches.
The region will finally get a break from the rain beginning Tuesday and will remain dry with temperatures in the mid 70s to low 80s, but meteorologists are keeping an eye on Hurricane Florence, which could bring more rain to the region this weekend.
Emily Balser and Chuck Biedka are Tribune-Review staff writers. Contact Emily at 724-226-4680, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @emilybalser. Contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, email@example.com or viat Twitter @ChuckBiedka. Tribune-Review staff writers Wesley Venteicher and Madasyn Czebiniak contributed.