PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Ever since this time last year, anybody who drives along Washington Boulevard – especially when it rains – takes a closer look at what’s going on around them.
The newly-installed gate is a symbol of what’s happened during the past year.
On this weekend a year ago, a sudden Washington Boulevard flood claimed the lives of four people aged 8 to 72 who could not escape the rising water that settles in a bowl where the boulevard meets Allegheny River Boulevard.
Since then, the City of Pittsburgh and PennDOT worked to establish a warning system that would keep drivers away should waters rise to an unsafe level.
“Basically we came up with a system that is pressure sensors in the roadway that have been installed to detect when water might be flowing pretty high there and they activate a warning signal system and actually deploy gates that close and cross the road,” PennDOT District 11 spokesman Dan Cessna said.
The PennDOT designed gates are the first of their kind in Pennsylvania at a cost of about $480,000.
“In addition to that we’ve done a lot of training,” adds Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss. “We’ve trained all of our police fire and paramedics in water rescue, water safety. They’ve been trained, equipped – that training is continuing.”
Huss says the $500,000 earmarked for swift water training paid off during recent flooding on Route 51.
“What it did is it allowed them to shut roads down faster. It provided swift water rescue capability to be on standby.
“They did perform two rescues that day on 51 and 88 from the, vehicles but we have these problems throughout the city.
“There’s areas down the run in Hazelwood and those areas that any point in time we could experience urban flooding.”
Beyond Washington Boulevard the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority is conducting a study of flood prone areas looking at what can be done to stop flooding and how much it might cost to do it.