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Rescues continue in central part of Pa.

| Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011

Greensburg firefighters rescued 17 residents from their homes in flood-ravaged Bloomsburg on Friday, bringing their three-day total to about 60 in a 40-mile radius of the college town precariously sandwiched between the Susquehanna River and Fishing Creek.

The river and the stream became raging torrents as Tropical Storm Lee pummeled northeastern Pennsylvania. The flooding in downtown Bloomsburg, home to Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, was the worst in 100 years, officials said, surpassing even Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

Greensburg Lt. Mike Rosensteel said his crew of 13 firefighters was looking for a resident reported stranded in his home. By the time their work was done, they had managed to bring to safety a total of 17, including two children ages 2 and 4.

Rosensteel said the rescue operation began just before daybreak. Several Greensburg firefighters "were walking in waist-deep water" in an attempt to get to the residents, many of whom were leaning out of second-floor windows to attract the attention of emergency personnel, he said.

"They were all in good shape. There were no health problems," he said.

Their only problem was they had no running water, Rosensteel said. Town officials turned off residential water taps as soon as it became clear the Susquehanna and Fishing Creek were about to overflow their banks, the lieutenant said.

About a third of Bloomsburg was under water that was 3 to 4 feet deep, Rosensteel estimated. Under sunny skies yesterday, floodwaters were slowly receding, he said.

Scottdale firefighter Bob Close said a four-man crew from his department reported from Muncy, Lycoming County, that they had plucked from danger a man whose Jeep was trapped by water. The four, led by fire Chief Buzz Myers, hoped to return home today, Close said.

About 12 members of a swift-water rescue unit comprised of firefighters from Bradenville, New Alexandria and Latrobe worked around the clock on Thursday near Harrisburg, according to Bradenville fire Chief Mark Piantine.

"It's really bad out there. ... They've been going nonstop. As of 5 p.m. (Thursday), that one team reported rescuing 25 people, seven dogs and three cats," Piantine said.

The team was checking flooded and submerged cars along Clark Creek near the Dauphin County Anglers and Conservationists fish nursery outside of Harrisburg to make sure no one was inside, he said.

The Greensburg team spent Wednesday in Muncy before moving on to Sullivan County on Thursday. They arrived in Bloomsburg late Thursday to find the town engulfed by water and 8 1/2 blocks evacuated of residents.

The Susquehanna reached 32.75 feet in Bloomsburg yesterday morning, more than 13 feet over flood stage. City officials "said this is the worst it's ever been," Rosensteel said.

This week's flooding eclipsed the previous high-water mark set in 1904.

Rosensteel said the days and nights have become blurred, with little in the way of sleep for rescuers.

"I got two hours of sleep last night," he said, noting the Greensburg crew, bunking at the Bloomsburg YMCA, was awakened for an unconfirmed ammonia leak in town.

The crew, demobilized yesterday afternoon, was on its way back home.

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