Western Pa. residents grow weary of rain, flood cleanups | TribLIVE.com
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Renatta Signorini

Thursday’s torrential rains may have been the final straw for Janet Seman.

After six floods since moving to her North Huntingdon Township home in 2004, Seman doesn’t know if she can clean mud out of her basement one more time.

“I have sump pumps, I have what I’m supposed to have, but I just think it’s a problem that’s not going to go away,” she said Friday morning while standing in her rain-soaked yard with mud staining her clothing.

Residents around the region cleaned up Friday after Thursday storms dumped a record-setting amount of rain, bypassing 2018’s year-to-date total. Mud in basements and on streets was a reminder of frantic moments Thursday when emergency responders rescued people from vehicles and homes as flood waters rose.

Rainfall recorded at Pittsburgh International Airport Thursday brought the total precipitation in 2019 to 30.02 inches, ahead of last year’s record-breaking 29.35 inches in the same time frame, according to the National Weather Service.

Most areas in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties had experienced up to about 2 inches of rainfall during a 24-hour period that ended Thursday at 5:30 p.m. More than 3 inches of rain fell in Greensburg, Fox Chapel and Oakmont.

Rain gauges at the Penn Township municipal building and public works garage recorded 2.46 inches and 2.81 inches of precipitation Thursday, township manager Alex Graziani said in a Facebook post. A gauge at the Penn Township Sewage Authority in Level Green recorded 3.43 inches of rain, he said.

That sent plenty of water into Brush Creek, which breached its banks in a few places, including outside of Seman’s home near the Irwin border along Route 993. She was home with her boyfriend when the rain started.

Seman was able to move her car a few feet to higher ground, but the rush of water pushed her basement door open, bringing mud, rocks and branches inside “like a river,” she said. She wasn’t sure yet whether her appliances were OK — she had just replaced the hot water heater and electrical box in September after flooding then.

“I guess it could’ve been worse, but I think this may be it,” she said.

Seman was hoping for some help from volunteers with her church to clear out the mud from her basement.

By noon Friday, 3 tons of mud and debris was shoveled out of the basement of L&I’s Food & Spirits in Penn. Co-owner Dan Ickes said he raced to the restaurant Thursday from his Manor home and saw the creek overtaking the parking lot.

“There’s nothing you can do until the water recedes,” he said. “We sat here and had beers and watched it.”

The basement houses the restaurant’s infrastructure and the owners were waiting to see if anything could be salvaged. Just from the food they had to throw out and damage in the basement, they’re looking at $6,000 plus at least two days of lost business, Ickes said. The business has flooded twice in the year and a half it has been open.

“Thank God that this is raised and it doesn’t really take any damage,” Ickes said of the main dining area.

Residents washed mud off of South Carbon Street in Penn and cleaned out their basements. Nine people were rescued by Penn Township Ambulance Association’s swift water rescue team from buildings surrounded by flood waters.

Back in North Huntingdon, Pine Hollow Road was closed indefinitely between Pine Hollow Road Extension and the Penn Township line after water eroded the side of the street, said township manager Jeff Silka. The township has made at least $1 million in repairs since last year’s record precipitation that left some roads heavily damaged.

There’s not much municipal officials can do to prevent road damage.

“All we can do is react to the rain,” said township manager Jeff Silka. “These rain events are becoming more and more frequent.”

PennDOT closed one lane of Guffey Road after a landslide. Traffic between Mickanin and Turner Valley roads was being controlled by stop signs.

The township also was the site of a large sinkhole that opened up outside of North Huntingdon KinderCare on Norwin Avenue, forcing its evacuation Thursday. The center was closed on Friday and officials were working to determine who was responsible for repairing the hole that encroached on the center’s playground, said Gene Komondor, township emergency management director.

A large drainage pipe collapsed. Fencing has been erected around it.

Both Silka and Komondor agreed that the township was lucky to get away with little damage. About 20 flood kits were handed out to township residents Friday. They are available at Town Hall, 11279 Center Highway.

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