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Driven from their homes

Three Pa. mobile home parks evacuated

Three Pa. mobile home parks evacuated

June 29, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

Standing on the northern approaches to the flooded Commerce Street bridge Tuesday morning, Chambersburg Borough Councilwoman Sharon Bigler thought back to the night before.

"We were at the firehouse last night and I said, 'You know, I've got a bad feeling,'" Bigler said.

With about 8 inches of rain drenching the Chambersburg area over three days, that bad feeling became a reality for people who had to be evacuated from three mobile home parks in Greene Township and a few buildings in Chambersburg, where the muddied waters of the Conococheague Creek overflowed, causing extensive flooding Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.

"It washed away my skirting and got up in my shed," said Marie Stevens, one of those evacuated from the Northwood Mobile home Park off U.S. 11 North of Chambersburg. "I know I had a lot of stuff ruined."

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"I took pride in what I had, but it's all gone now," said Stevens, a resident of the park for 19 years. She said the evacuation began about 5:45 a.m. with the water rising a foot every half hour before starting to recede about 8:30 a.m.

"Quite a few people in there have lost their homes," resident Phyllis Tustin said. Half a dozen heating oil tanks, propane tanks and a television were among the items she saw float out of the park.

"Food Lion and McDonald's have gone overboard to give food down here," Tustin said.

Shannon Hotchkiss, who lives nearby, said her father brought down his grill and cooked hot dogs for the residents. One resident said there are more than 60 lots in the park.

It was about 3:30 p.m. when rescue vehicles came through the Mickey Inn Mobile Home Park and ordered it evacuated, Bo Roberts said. He had been watching the creek rise and "at 2:38 a.m. it came over the banks and it probably rose a foot every half hour."

Roberts said the development has more than 100 mobile home lots and about 20 houses.

The flooding came at a particularly bad time for Mark Stroh, a homeowner at Mickey Inn who is scheduled to join his Army unit this Sunday at Fort Gordon, Ga., for deployment to Iraq.

"I probably lost about $27,000 worth" of vehicles, he said. The creek is prone to flooding along that stretch and it should have been dredged years ago, he said, except for concerns over the trout population.

The first evacuation came Tuesday night when Greene Township and Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Co. officials ordered residents out of the Lincoln Dell Mobile Home Park on Black Gap Road in Fayetteville, Pa.

The effect of the flood hit hours later in Chambersburg, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said. Between about 8 and 9 a.m. the Conococheague blocked the Loudon Street bridge, which carries eastbound U.S. 30 traffic. The Commerce Street bridge closed shortly thereafter, leaving the town with Lincoln Way West for westbound traffic and the King Street bridge to handle eastbound vehicles.

"Once you close Loudon street, it becomes extremely difficult to manage eastbound traffic," Oyer said.

Apartment houses near the creek at Loudon Street and an apartment house at the corner of Commerce Street and Wolf Avenue were evacuated, Oyer said. The Recreation Center on Third Street was opened as an emergency shelter with the Red Cross stationed there, but Oyer said that all the Loudon Street evacuees made arrangements to stay elsewhere.

Recreation Director Herb Dolaway said the center has been used as a shelter in past emergencies, but few families have stayed there, preferring the more comfortable surroundings of friends' or relatives' homes.

On Loudon Street, Ben and Tom Newcomer watched flood waters surround the Maranatha Food Pantry, which also houses the Cold Weather Drop-In Shelter. Slabs of parking lot asphalt the size of banquet tables were being tossed up by the torrent.

"They just stocked all the shelves yesterday with food," said Tom Newcomer, the former mayor.

Ben Newcomer, whose wife Natalie is the director of Maranatha, said he heard part of the second floor had collapsed inside the building.

"We have flood insurance, thank God," he said.

People walked along the borough's Rail-Trail, which follows the banks of the Conococheague, to get a good view of the flooding, which several remarked was the worst since Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.

Twenty-one children at the Wilson College Child Care Center were evacuated to Laird Hall after groundwater seeped into Prentis Hall said college spokeswoman Cathy Mentzer. The center will be professionally cleaned and reopen after the Fourth of July holiday, she said.

Groundwater infiltration also disrupted a nursing class in Rosenkrans Hall, she said. While flooding did close a campus bridge across the creek, Mentzer said the equestrian center and its horses did not have to be evacuated.

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