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Little Beaver Creek overflows, hundreds evacuated

| Sunday, May 23, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

Emergency officials in Beaver County spent much of the early morning hours and all day Saturday evacuating people from their homes after the Little Beaver Creek overflowed its banks.

More than 150 homes along Route 168 and Cannelton Road in Darlington, including a subdivision near Darlington Lake, were affected, according to Wes Hill, the county's director of emergency services.

Route 51 northbound at Cannelton Road also was closed because of flooding, and traffic was being rerouted.

"It's real bad up here," Hill said. "We've got water everywhere."

In Wayne Township, Lawrence County, about a dozen homes in a trailer park were evacuated. One elderly woman had to be rescued from a tree she climbed to escape the fast-rising waters.

Ellwood City, on the Lawrence-Beaver county border, received more than 3 inches of rain between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. yesterday, with a total of about 5 inches in 24 hours, the National Weather Service reported yesterday afternoon.

Temporary shelters were set up at Blackhawk High School and the Enon Valley Volunteer Fire Department. Hill reported flooded basements, damaged infrastructure and washed-out roads from Beaver Falls to Ellwood City, Lawrence County.

"We've been picking people off the tops of houses all day," he said. "I've never seen the Little Beaver like this. It's like a river."

Hill, who was in Darlington last night, said Beaver County was under a state of emergency and an assessment team with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is expected to arrive to survey damage today.

The National Weather Service continued flood warnings in Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties last night as water levels continued to rise at a dangerous pace along the North Fork of Little Beaver Creek and its feeder streams, the Mahoning River in Lawrence County and Connoquenessing Creek in Butler County. At 4 p.m., Connoquenessing Creek had risen to 11.8 feet. Flood stage is 11 feet.

In Pittsburgh, the Mon Wharf, a low-lying city parking lot along the Monongahela River, was closed and might remain so Monday, which would force hundreds of commuters to find alternate parking Downtown.

A third wave of violent storms was expected to batter the region last night.

Two lines of powerful storms Friday left 63,000 customers without power. But yesterday afternoon fewer than 1,000 households and businesses in Beaver County and parts of Allegheny County were without electricity.

About 10,000 Allegheny Power customers were expected to remain without power until midnight yesterday -- and another 1,700 in Fayette County likely wouldn't regain power until early this afternoon, the company said.

Beaver County was the hardest hit, with high winds and lightning causing extensive damage to power lines and circuits in many communities, a Duquesne Light Co. spokesman said.

The National Weather Service recorded 2.41 inches of rainfall in the Pittsburgh area between midnight Friday and 8 a.m. yesterday. Thunderstorms are in the forecast through next Friday.

The area will be in "a very dangerous situation with flooding," meteorologist Bob Davis said. Officials warn against driving through flooded roadways, as water may be deeper than it appears. Debris-laden current can also sweep children and others quickly away.

A flood watch is on until 8 a.m. today for Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence and Westmoreland counties.

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