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Flood closes Fayette County Food Bank

| Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011

A raging Redstone Creek flooded the Fayette County Food Bank just after midnight Wednesday, spilling more than 2 feet of water into a warehouse and spoiling $30,000 worth of food.

The food bank is closed until further notice, and Jim Stark, CEO of the Fayette County Community Action Agency, said he hopes to reopen next week, but it could be longer until the warehouse is sanitized, inspected and cleared to reopen.

Water levels reached 2 1/2 feet in some parts of the warehouse, ruining skids full of canned fruits, vegetables, beans, sauces and other nonperishable food. At least 160 boxes of food donated by Boy Scouts were among those saturated. Skids of food on upper shelves were not affected.

Inside the room-sized industrial freezer, the floor was a sheet of ice from frozen floodwater.

"There's never a good time (for a flood), but this is probably the worst time," Stark said.

The food bank serves 49 food pantries and about 3,000 households each month, said Jamie Brink, the food bank's project manager. She said about 200 new households have been coming into the food bank system each month, and demand is always highest around the holidays.

Thanksgiving distributions already had gone out, so there's some time to get up and running and replenish some items for December and the holidays, Brink said.

The food bank cannot accept donations of food right now, but Brink said when it can, the items most in need are cereal, peanut butter, juice and canned goods. Monetary donations go even further because the food bank can buy in bulk. For example, a $4 donation can buy 15 dozen eggs, Brink said.

Accuweather meteorologist Tom Kines said the rain wasn't a record, but totals between 1 and 1.5 inches is "a decent amount" in a 24-hour period.

"In the summer, we can get that kind of rain but it doesn't cause the same kind of flooding problems because the vegetation can absorb it and it evaporates faster," Kines said.

Elsewhere in Uniontown, Mundel's Furniture and the Auto Land Hyundai on Fayette Street reported basement flooding.

And Dan Mahoney, owner of Mahoney's Bar and Grille, said he had to scrub the dance floor inside his bar all night after water came rushing in when he opened a back door Tuesday night.

Mahoney, whose bar bridges Redstone Creek, said the creek rose quickly -- about 4 feet within an hour.

"It looked like an ocean out there," he said.

In South Union, the gravel under a rail bed washed out Tuesday night when heavy rainfall caused Cinder Street to flood. A crew from Allegheny Valley Railroad was waiting for a dump truck to deliver stone to replace what washed away on the Fay-Penn Rail track yesterday afternoon.

Operator Nick Ruff said it's typical for gravel along railroad tracks to wash away during severe flooding, but he hasn't seen it happen in this area before.

"It was bad," track laborer Josh Ohler said. "All the gravel was washed away and you could see the railroad ties. ... When it rains that hard for that long -- it's stone, it's going to move."

Tuesday night, Cinder Road, Redstone Furnace Road and a portion of Brownfield Lane were closed for about three hours because of flooding.

Heavy rains also caused a rockslide yesterday afternoon on Route 906 between Belle Vernon and Fayette City.

No one was injured in the slide, but members of Belle Vernon Volunteer Fire Company 2 had to block traffic in both directions until a PennDOT crew could arrive to clear the rocks from the roadway.

Chief engineer Christopher Kircher said the slide occurred "because of the massive amount of rainwater we had."

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