Emergency calls pour in as more than 6 inches of rain pounds region
Three days of near-constant rain caused havoc Monday across Western Pennsylvania with flooding and landslides, road and school closures and other emergency situations.
Remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon dumped more than 6 inches of rain across the region since Saturday, with more continuing Monday. The National Weather Services predicted up to another half-inch of rain from 5 a.m. through 8 p.m.
Below is a roundup of what happened around the region ( click here to see images from around the region ):
The Lower Ridge Dam in Derry Township is two feet below evacuation level, said Bud Mertz, director of Westmoreland County’s emergency management agency. Some seepage has been seen in the wall of the dam, which is owned by Derry Borough’s municipal authority. Around 100 people are being evacuated from the borough and Derry Township as a precaution, authorities said. They are being sent to Derry Area High School and St. Joseph’s Parish.
The Youghiogheny River in Sutersville was 6 feet above flood stage at 1:15 p.m. Monday. The weather service said it will be the highest crest since 1996. The river rose 3 feet on Monday between 7:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.
Firefighters closed streets near the river, which clocked in at 26.24 feet in early afternoon. Flood stage is 20 feet.
A garage belonging to Dennis Casoni’s brother, located near the river, was under about 6 feet of water and two rental properties his mother owns had several inches of water in them.
“Mother Nature’s being rough,” said his wife, Kathy Casoni.
Water in the small borough was rising fast — cars on First Avenue were about halfway covered by 11 a.m.
Just outside of town, Christine Ucman shuttled belongings out of her Sutersville Road home. She was able to get her valuables out overnight.
Heavy rainfall since Saturday has kept emergency responders busy all over Westmoreland County. Firefighters have been busy with water rescues and pumping basements while road crews have been contending with downed trees shutting down streets. In Westmoreland, flooding is widespread with people being stranded in their homes and vehicles amid rising waters.
A person was rescued from their vehicle in flood waters in Sewickley Township Sunday afternoon, and emergency responders were being called to help rescue people on White Street in Lowber Monday morning.
The Red Cross opened two reception centers in Westmoreland County:
•Derry Area High School gym, 988 N. Chestnut St. Ext.
•Collinsburg Fire Department, 514 Hickory Drive, West Newton.
Anyone affected by flooding can get food, water and information there, said spokesman Dan Tobin. If there is a need, the centers may be converted to overnight shelters later in the day, he said.
“We will follow up as the water goes up and down,” he said.
About 30 residents of a nursing home in West Newton were evacuated to the Collinsburg location. Other flood-related centers were opened in Clymer, Indiana County, and Elizabeth Township Allegheny County.
Several municipalities — including Donegal, Salina, Penn, Jeannette and New Alexandria — had received more than 6 inches of rain as of Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Moon Township. Other municipalities — including Ligonier, Laurel Mountain, Murrysville and New Stanton — have seen more than 5 inches of rain, weather service data showed.
Rain is expected to end this afternoon.
Parts of Route 119 are closed in Hempfield, South Greensburg and Greensburg. South Greensburg Street Department foreman Terry Pegg said the highway was closed in both directions near Fairview Street and there wasn’t really an alternate route.
“I’ve just been telling people to turn around and go back home if they can,” Pegg said.
Also, on Adams Street in South Greensburg, fire chief Eric Hardy, said three residents had to be rescued out of their homes because Jack’s Run overflowed its banks.
“We’ve been running all day,” he said.
Jack’s Run was encroaching on a Youngwood shopping center, shutting down several roads in the borough.
In Crabtree, water overflowed the banks of Crabtree Creek closing Route 119 at Latrobe Crabtree Road and surrounded the recently closed Carbone’s Restauarant. Those waters receded about 3 p.m., firefighters reported.
In Norwin, fifth- and sixth-graders and staff members at Hillcrest Intermediate School were moved to the high school Monday morning after the roof started to flood, according to a message from district officials. The flooding was causing “major concerns” with water getting into the building.
Classes at Westmoreland County Community College’s campuses in Youngwood and Fayette County were cancelled.
At University of Pittsburgh’s Greensburg campus, students and staff were being dismissed at noon.
About 6,000 West Penn Power Co. customers scattered throughout Westmoreland and Fayette counties were without power Monday.
West Penn Power said affected customers may not have power restored until between 8 and 11 p.m. Monday.
West Penn Power reported that as of 3 p.m. Monday, about 5,080 customers were without power in Westmoreland County. In neighboring Fayette County, the number was 989.
Inclement weather and downed trees were the cause of most of the power outages that occurred in the Smithton, Mt. Pleasant, New Stanton, Hempfield, Irwin, North Huntingdon, Latrobe, Ligonier, and Donegal areas, according to FirstEnergy’s outage map.
Duquesne Light Co. in Pittsburgh said that as of 3 p.m. Monday, less than 600 customers were without power as a result of heavy and persistent rain that moved through the area, toppling trees and causing other damage across Allegheny and Beaver counties. The majority of customers should have power restored by 9 p.m. Monday, the company said.
A landslide in Liberty Borough on Monday morning left about 1,000 customers in the dark, but power was restored an hour later to those customers.
Crews worked overnight Sunday and throughout the day Monday and will continue throughout the night to restore power.
Since the rain began this past weekend, power has been restored to nearly 17,000 Duquesne Energy customers.
A landslide in Liberty Borough impacted power to about 1,000 customers.
Duquesne Light crews worked overnight Sunday and will continue to work Monday to restore power. Since the rain began, power has been restored to more than 15,000 customers, the company said.
The Red Cross opened a reception center at Elizabeth Township Community Center, 429 Duncan Station Road, McKeesport.
The Ohio River surpassed its flood stage of 25 feet, according to the weather service. The river was set to crest at 26 feet Monday night.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald declared a disaster emergency Monday afternoon.
Flood warnings had expired and the rain was moving out of the area but some roads remained closed and landslides were reported Monday.
“In addition to flooding, we’re also seeing landslides, power outages, road closures and other emergency situations,” Fitzgerald said in the release. “I’ve issued this emergency declaration to ensure that Emergency Services has every tool that it may need available to it for response to assist our municipalities.”
The emergency order suspends bid and contract procedures for things like hiring temporary workers, renting equipment and buying supplies and materials related to flood damage, according to a news release.
The county is beginning its assessment of damages, Fitzgerald said in the release.
The county reported landslides Monday on its Twitter account that closed roads in Liberty, Monroeville and Homestead, while reporting various other road closures due to pools of water.
Pittsburgh officials were also worried about slides in the city. Mayor Bill Peduto said the hills are so far holding back, but staff is closely monitoring the most slide-prone areas.
“It’s important to understand we are facing the second most rain in the city’s history,” he said. “You have to assume that with the amount of water that’s out there there’s going to be a landslide (and) we’re going to have to close down some streets while we address it.”
The city has had its share of slides triggered by heavy rain early in the year. Officials expect to spend $3 million in repairs before year’s end.
“This is a direct result of climate change,” Peduto said. “In Pittsburgh it is heavy rains that in the past would only happen once in a decade or more that are now happening on a routine basis. It’s been very expensive.
Five municipalities in the county have declared disasters, according to the release.
The typically hard-hit areas of Millvale and Etna had avoided serious flooding as of Monday, according to borough administrators.
Millvale’s public works department provided sand, shovels and bags beneath the 40th Street Bridge for people to build sandbags in case of flooding.
Dennis Downie, 70, of Beechview, was making repairs to a building along Girty’s Run in Millvale related to flooding in July, when the area received 3 to 4 inches of rain in one night.
“That was heavy rain, quick,” Downie said, contrasting that event to this weekend’s steady downpour. “It didn’t have time to soak in anywhere, so it ran over the top.”
Tribune-Review reporters contributing to this report include Stephen Huba, Paul Peirce, Joe Napsha and Renatta Signorini.