USA – Deadly Flash Floods Hit Pennsylvania

Parts of Pennsylvania saw over 4 inches (101.6mm) of rain on 11 July, triggering flash floods and mudslides. Two people reportedly died after their vehicle was swept away by flood waters.

“Numerous water rescues in multiple counties have already been reported to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. “We need everyone to be careful, because flash flooding can occur quickly and can be very difficult to see at night.”

Local media reported that 2 people were found dead in a car swept away by floodwaters in Douglass Township, Berks County.

O’Hara Township in Allegheny County issued an emergency declaration urging all residents to leave low-lying areas.

Emergency crews reported rescuing stranded motorists after streets and roads were flooded, in particular in Berks and Montgomery counties. The Perkiomen Creek at Graterford in Montgomery County jumped from 2 feet to 16 feet and above major flood stage in 8 hours on 11 July, 2019.

Perkiomen Creek at Graterford in Montgomery County. Image; NWS / NOAA

In Westmoreland County, flood water caused a sinkhole to open up near a preschool in North Huntingdon, prompting evacuations. Access to UPMC St. Margaret hospital in Pittsburgh was blocked by flood water for a short time.

Rainfall and Flood Warnings

NWS Pittsburgh reported that Mount Washington in Allegheny County recorded 4.35 inches (110.49mm) of rain during the storm to 11 July.

NWS Mount Holly reported 4.6 inches (116.84mm) of rain in Boyertown, Berks County PA and 4.62 inches (117.35mm) in Gilbertsville, Montgomery County PA.

It has been a wet year in Pennsylvania. NWS Pittsburgh said “Today’s rainfall puts the Pittsburgh Airport year total at 30.02″, the 2nd wettest year ever to-date and 0.67″ ahead of the record-breaking pace set in 2018.”

Further rain is expected. NWS Pittsburgh said, “With another round of heavy rain this afternoon, landslides could develop given how wet the ground is.” Heavy rain could also affect other eastern states, and according to NWS Eastern Region, Flash Flood Watches were in place for parts of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington DC. Areas around Washington have already seen severe flash flooding this week.

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said that all swiftwater rescue teams in the state have been put on notice to be ready for deployment. In addition, one team from the PA Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (PA-HART) has been placed on ready status in Johnstown. The aircraft are capable of performing hoist rescue operations or moving swiftwater rescue teams to inaccessible areas if needed to support county rescue operations.

The state’s Department of Transport (PennDOT) warned motorists not to drive across roads covered with water because even shallow, swiftly flowing water can wash a car from a roadway. Also, the roadbed may not be intact under the water. And never drive around barricades or signs on closed roads – Turn Around, Don’t Drown.

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