Pa. crews pump out basements

officials keep eye on the sky

June 27, 2006|by DON AINES and JENNIFER FITCH

A single rubber ducky bobbed in a pool of rainwater behind Jim and Bonnie Kabler's Waynesboro, Pa., house Monday morning, hardly betraying the destruction below the ground.

"Imagine opening your basement and seeing water two steps down," Jim Kabler said. "You could've knocked me down with a feather."

Heavy rains overnight Sunday coupled with a clogged drain at the intersection of South Potomac and Green streets had deluged the Kablers' basement at 416 S. Potomac St. with 6 feet of standing water.

Despite their troubles Monday, the Kablers and the rest of Franklin County, Pa., were bracing for another 3 to 5 inches of rain by tonight.


The water from Sunday night and Monday morning had entered the basement through the same doors Kabler opened to discover the mess, he said.

"It ran down like a waterfall," Jim Kabler said. The family has lived at the house for more than nine years but has never seen flooding like Monday, he said.

The Kablers credit the Waynesboro Volunteer Fire Department with cleaning out the troublesome drain and pumping the majority of the water from their basement, leaving 8 inches of water and muck to occupy their time for the remainder of the day.

"It was clear up to the floor joist," Fire Chief Ron Flegel said.

His department had about a dozen calls for assistance pumping water. It also closed a section of South Potomac Street in the morning. At least one motorist drove past the barricade, only to wind up stranded, Flegel said.

"We weren't in (Washington) Township at all, which really surprised me," he said. "It seemed to affect Waynesboro a little bit more."

Waynesboro received 5.04 inches of rain between June 20 and 26, bringing the month's total to 5.62 inches, weather observer Todd Toth of Waynesboro said.

At 5:30 a.m. Monday, the rain was falling at a rate of 2.24 inches an hour, he said.

Rainfall totals between June 20 and 26 were 5.68 inches in Quincy Township and 2.62 inches in Mercersburg, Pa., Toth said.

"It's moisture that's coming off the Atlantic," he said, explaining the area usually receives storms moving east from the Gulf of Mexico.

Gary Himes, Franklin County's acting emergency management coordinator, said county officials held a teleconference with the National Weather Service in State College, Pa., Monday morning to discuss more storms coming from the southwest that could dump another 3 to 5 inches of rain on the area by Tuesday night.

"It's kind of a waiting game to see how they do track" through the region, Himes said. That call was followed by an afternoon teleconference between county emergency officials and officials from the county's boroughs and townships.

"We had a lot of calls for water running over roads," Himes said of the aftermath of Monday morning's downpour. He said there were about "a half dozen minor water rescues."

Monday afternoon the Woodstock Road railroad underpass in Chambersburg was closed and there was still standing water.

A sinkhole developed off Walker Road in Greene Township, closing that road Monday morning while it was being filled in, Himes said.

How the swollen streams and saturated earth will handle additional rain depends on how much falls and how fast, Himes said.

About eight homes on South Potomac Street from Fifth Street to Cemetery Avenue in Waynesboro were pumped Monday, Flegel said.

"We didn't have enough pipes to handle it," he said. "When you get (that much rain) dumped in a short amount of time, the system can't handle it."

The Kablers, however, blame the drain they say is poorly maintained. Damage from other storms has been mitigated because the family clears debris from the drain, they said.

"I'm going to be out guarding that drain tonight," Jim Kabler said, remarking it'd be his "vigil."

"We shouldn't have to baby-sit the drain," Bonnie Kabler said.

The drains are often clogged by debris, said Flegel, whose department has a station house on South Potomac Street.

"I've actually seen water shooting a foot high from the storm inlets when it backs up," he said.

An alley and parking area behind the Kablers' house on Monday had cautionary traffic markers highlighting a 4-foot stretch where the asphalt had been pushed up and crumbled by water.

"Most of the time we get this it's the result of a tropical storm or the remnants of a hurricane," Flegel said.

West Virginia

Though river flooding was not imminent Monday, National Weather Service officials are projecting Opequon Creek in Berkeley County, W.Va., to flood tonight, possibly reaching 13 to 14 feet. At 4 p.m., Monday, the creek measured 3.3 feet., well below the 10-foot flood stage level.

Near the small community of Millville in Jefferson County, the Shenandoah River is expected to rise to a level of 11 feet, less than three feet from flood stage.

At Harpers Ferry, W.Va., where the Shenandoah meets the Potomac River, the historic town's 18-foot flood stage was expected to be reached on Wednesday.

If flooding did happen, Harpers Ferry Mayor James A. Addy said only a few buildings would be affected within the town's jurisdiction, but the neighboring historical park would have to take more significant steps, evacuating and relocating to higher ground. At 247 feet above sea level, Harpers Ferry is the lowest point in the state.

Emergency officials in both Jefferson and Berkeley counties had not received any calls about significant flooding concerns through Monday afternoon.

Staff writer Matthew Umstead contributed to this story.

Water falls

Rainfall totals for three Franklin County, Pa., communities between June 20 and 26, according to local weather observer Todd Toth:

Waynesboro 5.04 inches

Quincy 5.68 inches

Mercersburg 2.62 inches

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