PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — A winter storm is set to slam into the area today, but heavy rains caused severe flooding across the area this morning.
More than an inch of rain fell and a Flood Warning was extended through the late morning to afternoon hours.
Motorists were forced to slow down during their morning commute because of flood conditions on some roads, and some homeowners are pumping out their basements and crawl spaces. Also, water rescue teams were put on standby for emergency evacuations.
In Beaver County, firefighters say once the heavy rain started falling, it didn’t take long for Big Sewickley Creek to rise.
“It’s probably 15 feet higher than normal,” said Bell Acres Fire Chief Wayne Fortuna.
The higher and faster moving creek made it impossible for drivers to travel Big Sewickley Creek Road, and even worse for those who live on the other side. In Bell Acres, five families who live close to the creek couldn’t leave their homes.
“I would say in the six years I’ve lived here, this is the worst I’ve seen it, personally,” resident Sonya Charlesworth said.
The two bridges Charlesworth and her neighbors use to go to and from their creek-side homes were impassable, covered by rushing water and filled with debris.
Firefighters didn’t evacuate the residents, but they were prepared, just in case.
“We have Crescent and Robinson Swift Water Rescue crews here with boats and we’re prepared to take them out,” said Chief Fortuna.
Across the street, in Economy Borough, Pam Huppenthal didn’t have flooding concerns this time, but she watched as the rain continue to fall.
“When Hurricane Ivan came we lost our entire home. We now have rebuilt, and hopefully, I don’t have to face this again,” Huppenthal said.
These neighbors know they live at the mercy of the weather.
“Just Mother Nature, I think, just showing us how powerful she is, and how often do we get 60 degree days in Pittsburgh in the middle of January?” said Charlesworth.
KDKA’s Paul Martino reports —
Down in Washington County, the Chartiers Creek devastated a section of Houston, Pa., and folks in one neighborhood in the area have had it. They say the creek continually threatens their homes and destroys a big park there, and they said Friday’s flooding was the worst they’ve seen since Hurricane Ivan.
A ball field became a big lake that was spilling into nearby homes Friday.
“I live with my 87-year-old mother. It’s tragic,” flood victim Wendy Fitzpatrick said. “I had to gently wake her up this morning and make sure this wasn’t… and she started sobbing.”
Thursday night’s rain turned Chartiers Creek into a fierce, rolling river. It was almost as if a dam had burst. The park was a reservoir, pouring several feet of water into nearby homes.
For Esther McIlravy, a widow, it’s nothing new. Once again, she has to pump out her basement and salvage her utilities.
“It’s pretty bad. I had to shut my furnace off, my hot water tank. My washer and dryer is down here,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s any good anymore or not.”
There’s much frustration as the flood victims say they can’t get anyone to help them stop the flooding.
“I’m sick of this. Houston Borough does nothing. They say they can’t do anything. They have to be able to do something,” McIlravy said.
KDKA’s Rick Dayton reports —
In Allegheny County, families on three streets in Bridgeville had a rude wake-up call.
“The creek was at the point of coming over the banks. We made a decision to start evacuating Baldwin Street, McLaughlin, Maple,” said Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Chief Bill Chilleo.
Chartiers Creek nearly came over the wall at 4 a.m., but Randy Thompson says that’s not where the water came from.
“We get flooded, but it’s getting worse because they are building new houses up on this hill and all the water is running down and these sewer lines can’t handle it,” said Thompson.
Many people had between two and seven feet of water in their basements, including Donnie Webb, who has lived on the street less than a year.
“They said the furnace is gone and the circuit breaker is gone. So they had to pull out the electric thing so they could do that. The gas company is here of course, and they said there is carbon monoxide inside because the furnace was trying to run with the water over it,” said Webb.
After a few hours, most families were allowed back in their homes to start assessing what they lost.
Now the fire department is working on pumping the water out.
“Our goal is to try to get this done with the weather changing later today and temperatures dropping, so the people can do what they need to do from turning their furnaces back on to have heat in their house so they don’t have more issues than they already do right now,” said Chief Chilleo.
With no furnace, no electricity, and no heat, Webb is glad he has family nearby.
“The good thing is my mom and dad live up the street, so that’s the good thing,” he said.
Elsewhere in the area, part of Allegheny River Boulevard was closed down this morning. The road was blocked to traffic coming down Washington Boulevard, and drivers coming up from the Highland Park Bridge were being redirected up Washington Boulevard.
Becks Run Road in Carrick was shut down between Brownsville Road and Hopeland Street. Motor vehicles had to be pulled from floodwaters there.
In Oakdale, a creek went over its banks and pushed chunks of ice out onto Clinton Avenue.
Over in West View, the basement of at least one home was flooded along Rochester Road. Elsewhere in the North Hills, there were reports of flooding in Hampton Township. Also, more than 100 new vehicles were flooded in an auxiliary parking lot for Shults Ford in McCandless.
In the Pittsburgh’s Beltzhoover section, the heavy rains caused a landslide, which closed the intersection of Boggs Avenue and Southern Avenue on Friday afternoon.
An emergency official said there were reports of houses flooded, and asked drivers to avoid the area around Clinton Avenue and Noblestown Road.
There are also reports of flooding in Butler County, much of it in southern townships – Adams, Cranberry, Penn, Buffalo and Washington. Emergency officials in the county say Mars Evan City Road is seeing the worst of it.
Temperatures are expected to fall throughout the day, and the precipitation will turn into freezing rain before changing over to snow.
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