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Rescuers had to be rescued

cleanup begins

June 29, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

More than 200 homes had been evacuated, at least eight roads remained closed, rescuers were being rescued themselves and people continued to be pulled from deep and rushing waters as Franklin County, Pa., on Wednesday first saw the aftermath of three full days of storms.

On the minds of many during the cleanup, however, was the National Weather Service's forecast of showers and thunderstorms into the weekend.

At least four deaths in Pennsylvania, including a 21-year-old woman in a vehicle accident near Gettysburg, have been attributed to the storms that caused Gov. Ed Rendell to declare a disaster emergency for 46 counties, including Franklin and Fulton.

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A Maryland State Police helicopter was brought in to assist Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Co. firefighters stranded while evacuating the Lincoln Dell Mobile Home Park late Tuesday. The Lincoln Dell, Mickey Inn and Northwood mobile home parks came under mandatory evacuation orders by Greene Township, which was the only of Franklin County's 21 municipalities to declare a state of emergency.

Single-family houses in the county also were evacuated, many of those voluntarily and along the Interstate 81 corridor.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday county emergency services personnel and Greene Township began planning for the return of evacuees to their mobile homes, although one or two of the mobile home parks could remain completely closed into today, county Emergency Services Director Jerry Flasher said.

"They're slowly checking trailer by trailer before they turn the power back on," Flasher said.

One hundred-and-sixty Allegheny Power customers in Franklin County remained without electricity after the company turned off the power at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

"The floodwaters were so high they were getting in the meter sockets. As the flood waters go down, we'll start bringing customers (on)," Allegheny Power spokesman Mike Grandillo said.

Those waters were "definitely not clean," Flasher said, saying he had gotten notification from the Environmental Protection Agency about concerns.

Yet, emergency responders were dispatched at least twice to pull adults and children out of the waters in which they were playing. More than 10 vehicles had become stranded in the past week when the drivers attempted to navigate them over water-covered roads or past barricades, Flasher said.

"We're still dispatching water rescues. People won't heed the warning," Flasher said Wednesday afternoon with a twinge of frustration in his voice.

At one point overnight Tuesday, 25 roads in the county were closed and officials "just hardly had enough" traffic markers to indicate so, Flasher said.

In the Waynesboro area, parts of Welty Road, South Potomac Street, Country Club Road and Iron Bridges Road were closed at points in the storms.

"We had (the barricades) all out. We were using cones," Washington Township (Pa.) Manager Mike Christopher said, noting the township roads were all open by midday Wednesday except Iron Bridges Road on the west branch of the Antietam Creek.

Loudon Street, Commerce Street and Woodstock Road were closed Wednesday afternoon in Chambersburg, according to borough engineer Robert Wagner. No homes in the Borough of Chambersburg had been evacuated, he said.

"We had some flooding on Cemetery Avenue. We had some sewer backup," Waynesboro Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said. The borough had received calls from residents on Fifth Street about sewage in their basements, he said.

The Borough of Waynesboro contended with flooding and poor drainage on South Potomac Street as it has sporadically for decades.

The heavy rains recently, though, were "extraordinarily strange and unique circumstances," Hamberger said. "We're going to have to look at some things engineering-wise."

Lehman Road in Antrim Township remained closed Wednesday afternoon, but Grant Shook Road was open after being closed Monday night.

Most of the roads in the Mercersburg area remained passable despite concentrated spots of high waters, Mercersburg Borough Council President Joshua Meyers said.

"We weren't really hit as hard in this part of the county," he said.

Even farther west, in Fulton County, a 911 dispatcher expressed relief that the county had very few problems associated with the weather.

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