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Jeannette residents join forces to rid homes of mud after flood

| Friday, June 15, 2012, 12:57 p.m.

The National Weather Service called off a flash flood warning Saturday for most of Western Pennsylvania.

The announcement came as John Yackovich of Jeannette took up a shovel and began clearing his basement of mud.

Yackovich and his neighbors on Mill Street are still trying to clear out muck and debris.

Three days after Wednesday's heavy downpour, they were anxious to have the Jeannette Municipal Authority clean out a line that connects their properties to a main line beneath a parking lot at Ascension Roman Catholic Church, just a few feet away.

The Mill Street neighbors say they need to be able to flush the mud from their basements down a drain into unclogged lines.

Authority Superintendent Doug Pike, on hand to listen to residents' complaints, explained it couldn't be done. The authority is prohibited from doing work on private property even, as in this case, when permission is granted by the property owner.

It was all too much for Yackovich's wife, Rita. "You tell me nothing can be done! And we pay our bill every month!"

After many trips back and forth from her residence, the last in a string of eight red brick row houses, Rita Yackovich was crying, and apologizing. "Sorry for my language," she said, as she cradled a small dog, one of two nervous Chihuahuas she and her husband keep on the second floor of their place.

She said she sensed trouble two weeks ago, when there was difficulty getting the toilet to flush. And the sickening smell that kept the Yackoviches off their back porch last summer returned.

Yesterday, the neighbors' basements were caked with mud. Things were better on the first floors, but only in the sense that the mud was gone. But so were the carpets and some furniture.

Last week's rain water came up from the basements on Mill Street to depths of 2 to 3 feet on the first floors.

Patty Marquis lived here in 1985, when the last serious flooding occurred. "This was worse," she said.

She walked through her kitchen to the living room. "Ron, my husband, thinks the TV will work," she said.

Everything happened so fast, she explained. The last three days have been crazy. There is no insurance to cover losses.

"I don't know how we're going to replace things," she said. "I haven't had time to think about it."

Outside, John Yackovich consulted with professional cleaners at the church. Then he explained that the only feasible way out of this mess was for everyone to shovel their way out.

It would be one for all and all for one, beginning at one end of the complex, each basement in turn cleared of mud, one bucket at a time.

Yackovich disappeared and soon returned carrying two shovels and two buckets. He and another man bent over the shovels in his basement. Two neighbors, then a third and a fourth showed up. A sort of bucket brigade was taking shape.

Meanwhile, the municipal truck arrived and workers placed a hose into a hole in the middle of the street and began to pour water to test whether the main line was clogged.

It was, as Pike suspected, not clogged. "I don't think I did them much good," he said of the Mill Street residents.

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