MILLVALE (KDKA) — The ravages of Florence may be 470 miles away from Millvale but to the people who live and work in this river town, Florence might as well be in Etna.
“Ever since the 2004 incident, every time it rains, I get nervous,” says Fred Bohn, who owns The Attic Record Store.
The Attic’s inventory is stacked from floor to ceiling and near the front door is a stack of sand bags. Bohn says living with the threat of floods is getting old.
“Just like July 5 when we got flooded and that wasn’t even part of a hurricane,” he said.
All over Millvale sandbags sit on the front door stoops of businesses and residences.
The US Army Corp of Engineers Megan Gottlieb says they don’t expect Florence to bring anywhere near the rain that fell during Gordon.
“With Gordon, we saw up to 7 to 8 inches in a three day window,” she said.
The flooding from Gordon has receded and now the Corp is hurrying to get ready for Florence.
“We’ve been able to dump a lot of water from those reservoirs and regain a lot of space. Now our reservoirs have about 80 percent additional space to store additional run off. So we’re in a very good position,” Gottlieb said.
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich says they’ve been planning for Florence’s arrival.
“We are prepared if anything happens. We will, if necessary, activate the flood response units. We had three on last weekend during Gordon so we will be prepared,” he said.
Public Works will also be on duty as the storm arrives to keep the catch basins clear and roads open.
“The ground is still very saturated and we have to be careful with that,” Hissrich said.
One of Hissrich’s major concerns is another flood event that closes the 10th Street Bypass and the “Bathtub” section of the Parkway Central.
“We certainly hope that we’re not going to have to close the bathtub again. That necessitates motorcycle officers to guide people around the bathtub area,” he said.
The storm is expected to arrive on Monday and shower down on the region into Tuesday.
Hissrich looks at it this way: “I wish it would go away, but at the same time I’m thankful it’s not snow.”
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West End residents are also especially wary of more flooding.
It was only June when residents experienced widespread flooding. In some areas, a wall of water came halfway up houses. Nearby Saw Mill Run Creek roared out of its banks, but many feel the flooding was intensified because the creek had become the site of what residents call an illegal dump.
“I’m terrified, terrified. I’m terrified pretty much every time it rains now,” Michael Anglin said.
Anglin knows he lives in an area prone to flooding, but he can’t take any more.
“It comes up in my yard and this is 19 times and now I’ve just lost, I just lost my business. I lost everything,” he said. “I’ve been telling the city and everyone I can, even calling 911 and nothing’s happened yet.”
Anglin’s neighbors are all worried it could happen again. Residents say the debris in Saw Mill Run Creek is the worst it’s been.
“It looks like a raging river when it rains, so this is all material not just from here but from the whole Saw Mill Run corridor,” resident Kim Martyn said.
Debris is accumulating with every heavy rain and flood. In some places it’s stacked so high it’s creating a dam, which forces the water up and over its banks. Massive blocks of concrete and rebar are also piled high.
City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith says the large chunks of concrete are being dumped there.
“We’ve had a lot of illegal dumping here that’s narrowed the stream so much the water isn’t able to flow through the stream,” she said.
Kail-Smith says the city and the DEP are aware of the dumping and have issued citations to a construction company nearby.
Anglin, who lives across the street from the creek and company, has taken numerous videos with his cell phone. He says there are no repercussions and the dumping continues.
“They’re issuing fines, but what we need is protection. We need a barrier,” Martyn said.
Kail-Smith says the city, the DEP and the Army Corps of Engineers are all working on a solution. The West End Valley fear it won’t come soon enough.