South Hills rocked by floods

Published Jul 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm (Updated Jul 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm)

Torrential rains that fell throughout the South Hills and northern Washington County early July 10 resulted in road closures, ponding water on roadways and in yards, and flooded basements.

“In 13 years, I’ve never seen Route 19 flood like it did,” said Peters Township police Officer John Bruce.

Along Washington Road, also known as Route 19, an unoccupied car parked at Marosz service station was lifted by the water cascading from a hill next to Moccasin Drive, and floated to the middle of Washington Road, Bruce said.

At Rex Glass, just south of Moccasin Drive, a car stalled in about two and a half feet of water with Bruce making the decision to close Washington Road both northbound and southbound to all traffic. The closure lasted between 30 minutes and an hour, bringing rush hour traffic to a standstill. When the flooding receded, Bruce said, public works crews cleared debris from the road before traffic was allowed to proceed.

Flooding also occurred farther north on Washington Road, closing Circle Drive near Beinhauer’s Funeral Home, where Bruce estimated the depth of the water to be two and a half to three feet.

Several young students had to be evacuated from the Huntington Learning Center, 2848 Washington Road, by police and members of the Peters Township Volunteer Fire Department. No injuries were reported when about six inches of water entered the building.

Bruce said the flooding along Washington Road resulted when a small creek that runs parallel to the road overflowed.

Additional flooding in Peters Township resulted in the closure of Valley Brook Road between East McMurray Road and the site of construction on the new ramp to and from Washington Road. Some motorists opted to attempt a short cut when Route 19 was closed, and ended up driving through “road closed” signs on Thompsonville Road before becoming stranded in a construction area.

Bruce said about three or four residences reported flooded basements.

“I worked (the remnants of Ivan in 2004) and with this, there seems to be more flooding on the roadways,” Bruce said.

Peters Township police Chief Harry Fruecht said he’d never seen flooding along the roads this intense in the 25 years he’s been chief.

In neighboring Cecil Township, Chief Sean Bukovinsky said the heavy rains caused the closure of the intersection of Routes 50 and 980, and the railroad underpass at the bottom of Miner’s Hill in Lawrence on Georgetown Road. In both instances, tow trucks were needed to remove vehicles stuck in the rising water. No drivers needed to be evacuated.

“Route 50 is always an issue for us,” Bukovinsky said shortly after the water receded and the road was opened at about 12:15 p.m.

Electrical power to Southpointe was lost, but Bukovinsky said when he arrived at the scene, West Power Co. crews were switching circuits and the traffic lights were working and power was restored.

He said at least one house had water in the basement along Klinger Road. Flooded basements were also reported in the Lawrence area and in the Fleeher plan.

Portions of Cecil Park between Route 50 and Millers Run was underwater. Employees of the public works department, located adjacent to the park, placed sandbags around the building. However, Bukovinsky said, the water stopped short of entering the building.

Flooding was also reported in Upper St. Clair and South Fayette townships, as well as communities in the South Hills such as Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon. Light Rail service between the South Hills and Pittsburgh was temporarily suspended because of debris blocking the tracks in several areas. Buses on the South Busway were detoured because of flooding and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl encouraged employers to send workers home early.

Meteorologist John Darnley of the National Weather Service was keeping a close eye on the colliding high and low pressure systems that began to dump rain just before 8 a.m. His wife sent him a picture of the overflowing retention pond near his South Fayette Township residence, something that has not occurred since Ivan nearly 10 years ago.

Darnley said best estimates are that about two and a half inches of rain fell in a six-hour time period with the bulk falling around 8 a.m. – and more was predicted to hit the area later today (July 10).

Heavy rain was just part of the problem Wednesday morning, Fruecht said.

“The biggest problem is (drivers) don’t look at the ‘road closed’ signs and they don’t obey the signs and they drive through,” Fruecht said. Even after officers parked police vehicles with flashing lights near the road closed signs, “people were still trying to go through.”

“We’re trying to prevent them from being trapped and then we’d spend more time rescuing them,” Fruecht said.

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