Rain makes for rough going in Pa., W.Va.

June 28, 2006|by DON AINES

With some parts of southeastern Franklin County, Pa., having reported 11 inches or more of rain since Sunday and a flash flood warning in effect, the county's emergency operations center was partially activated Tuesday.

The National Weather Service in State College, Pa., issued the flash flood warning at 1:40 p.m., county Emergency Services Director Jerry Flasher said. He said the operations center in the courthouse annex basement would be staffed through the night into this morning.

"The information we cannot emphasize enough is not to drive through water," Flasher said. "We've had more than 12 water rescues in the last two days."

Those rescues involved vehicles driven on to water-covered roads, Flasher said. While no drivers or passengers were in serious peril, Flasher said as little as 6 inches of fast-moving water can sweep away a car.


Flasher also advised parents not to allow children to go near the swift-running flows of water created by the deluge.

Around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, two men boating along Lyons Road in Waynesboro, Pa., encountered trouble near Goods Dam. One man grasped the bridge while the second was sucked underneath, the Waynesboro Volunteer Fire Department said.

That second man was able to grab a tree and pull himself from the water. Both had reached safety by the time emergency responders arrived.

National Weather Service Forecaster David Martin said Tuesday night a South Mountain, Pa., weather observer reported receiving almost 11.5 inches of rain since Sunday. In northern Franklin County, the totals were much less, but still considerable, he said.

Local weather observer Jerry Ashway of Chambersburg, Pa., said he had recorded 7.85 inches of rain between Thursday and about 6 p.m. Tuesday, seven inches of that since Sunday. The average rainfall in June is 4.01 inches for the entire month, he said.

Ashway said 2.72 inches of rain fell Tuesday.

In Greencastle, Pa., the 1.9 inches of rain Tuesday brought the monthly total to 11.67 inches, weather observer Robert Wertime said. Waynesboro reportedly received 3.15 inches of rain Tuesday.

Roads that are often flooded, such as the railroad underpass on Woodstock Road in Chambersburg and the U.S. 11 underpass in Greencastle, were closed Tuesday afternoon. The U.S. 11 underpass later reopened.

A section of South Potomac Street and the intersection of West Second and Grant streets, both in Waynesboro, were also closed in the afternoon. Cautionary traffic markers dotted standing water on Pa. 16 in Shady Grove, Pa.

As rain continued into the evening, Flasher said that 911 dispatchers "were getting hammered" with calls about flooding. The 911 center in Fulton County, Pa., said it received very few calls related to the weather, but a dispatcher did say many people call the fire departments directly.

Basements in Waynesboro and surrounding Washington Township, Pa., continued to fill with water as the storms continued. The Waynesboro Volunteer Fire Department pumped 13 homes Tuesday, bringing the total to more than 20 in two days.

"We do have all our pumps out at the present time," Fire Chief Ron Flegel said at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Morgan County, W.Va.

A rockslide occurred across W.Va. 9 West on Tuesday about 400 feet past the scenic overlook toward Great Cacapon, W.Va., said Dave Michael, Morgan County Office of Emergency Services (OES) director.

Michael said he drove to the site to assess the problem, and about a truckload of "fist-size rocks" had fallen across the road, but drivers could still cross the area, he said.

Michael said an emergency call reporting a mudslide near the Panorama at the Peak restaurant was reported to OES on late Tuesday afternoon, and John Coleman, superintendent of the West Virginia Department of Highways (DOH) was notified of the road problem, which will be addressed by DOH, he said.

Michael said with continued rain, the small streams in the county are expected to overflow "sometime overnight" on Tuesday and problems with flooding could occur.

Jefferson County, W.Va.

Darrell Penwell, Jefferson County's director of emergency management, said a vehicle accident on W.Va. 230 Tuesday afternoon was caused by high water near the Covenant Baptist Church, but was not believed to be serious.

Penwell said the intermittent pattern of the downpours at least offered some time for the water to drain, but he still was watching the rising waters of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers closely.

"We've been quite fortunate so far," Penwell said.

Projections by the National Weather Service indicate the Shenandoah River will crest near flood stage today. Officials expect the Potomac River to near the flood stage of 18 feet in Harpers Ferry on Thursday.

Harpers Ferry Mayor James A. Addy said he was prepared to have the Lower Town district closed to traffic in anticipation of at least some flooding.

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