Rain moves into region; flooding expected

March 10, 2011 3:24:42 PM PST
Flood watches are in effect across much of Pennsylvania as rain moves into the commonwealth, threatening to raise already swollen waterways out of their banks.

In the Philadelphia area, rainfall totals of three inches or more are possible in some areas by the time the storm moves out Friday.

At a meeting on Thursday afternoon with utilities, emergency management officials, the Red Cross and others, the Yardley borough manager announced that based on predictions the Delaware could crest at over 22 feet on Saturday. That means evacuations of some 80 homes in the RiverMar section - just across from the river - will likely be necessary.

"When we get closer to that situation where people are being evacuated and need housing then we will make sure to get the word out of where that shelter will be," said Steven Huizar of the American Red Cross.

Alice O'Reilly is preparing for the worst. The mother of seven lives in a small apartment complex on North Delaware Ave. in Yardley, just steps from the Delaware River. She's pulling everything out of her 1st floor home. Her sons came Thursday to help her move furniture.

With 22 feet of water predicted, Alice said "Everything will be lost, everything will be gone including rugs and everything so everything has to go."

The moving vans were lined up outside the complex and Alice's neighbors - with pillows and blankets in hand - were also getting ready to get out.

"My daughter and I, she's three, we have to head up to a friend's house to stay so we can get to work tomorrow and we're not stuck here for the next three days," said Amanda Wheeler.

In Bucks County, the Neshaminy Creek is expected to grow close to 12 feet.

A reverse 911 recording was sent out to area residents Thursday afternoon by Bucks County Emergency Management warning them of the potential flooding.

It's a message, neighbors in the region have heard time and time again.

Fortunately, two years ago with the help of FEMA, several homes along the Neshaminy were raised, but Emergency Management officials still want residents to be cautious.

Also in Yardley, Action News found a restaurant owner getting ready for the flood.

Robert Freed of the Yardley Inn had a crew of people out rolling out levies in hopes of protecting the landmark restaurant from being swamped the way it has in past floods.

"We have a plan in place to deploy some heavy-duty inflatable levies here that will surround the building and prevent, we hope, a lot of damage" said Freed, who explained those inflatable levies will be filled with river water and held in place with sandbags.

The impending floodwaters were less of a concern down the street at the Charcoal Steaks restaurant. After being shut down due to flood damage in 2006, the owners borrowed $1 million to raise the building high enough so flooding can't wipe out the business.

"It cuts the anxiety somewhat because, now, you don't have to worry about major property damage," said owner Tony Plescha. "Since we've elevated we're a foot above the worst flood scenario."

Some people were down by the river on Thursday, wondering what the falling rain had in store.

"I wanted to see what was going on because I'm supposed to be here at 8:00 in the morning tomorrow. Hopefully that thing will stay under control," said Cheri Berry of Holland, Pa.

In Darby, Delaware County, the memories of the last flood are still fresh. The water rose so suddenly last October that people were trapped in their homes and shops. In fact, the fire department had to use a ladder truck to rescue some of them.

"We lost everything, all our files that were contained in the basement," said Eugene Chieffo of the Postal Workers Union, recalling the flood that surrounding the Union Hall.

Cars were submerged in the parking lot and a Dumpster floated down the block.

"The water was so high it was halfway up the side parking lot, and it was all roped off, so we had to leave through the front entrance," said Chieffo.

Some people couldn't even get home because they were cut off by flooded streets.

"This apartment was flooded, I couldn't even go around," said Honeymay Roldan. "I had to go to school and I tried to find my way around."

In Upland, they're keeping an eye on Chester Creek.

It collects a lot of debris that jams up against this bridge on Kerlin Street, creating what eventually becomes a dam.

Over in the First State, portable flood walls are in place along the Delaware River to try and keep rising water from spilling into nearby streets in Delaware City.

In Stanton, Delaware, Nancy Pearson remembers when the Red Clay Creek flooded her flag store in September 2003. City.

"We lost $100,000 in inventory and cost $80,000 to rebuild," Nancy of Pearson's Flag Store said.

The Red Clay Creek sent about 7 feet of water into Pearson's store.

Many houses in that area were also flooded and have since been torn down.

Pearson is hopeful flood controls that have followed will prevent the danger she saw back then.

Sill, anyone who lives or works near these small creeks knows how they can turn and the damage they can do.