Flooding creates commute chaos, serious damage

PHILADELPHIA - September 8, 2011

It all started when the Schuylkill Expressway flooded out in spots and then a mudslide shut down the expressway from the Blue Route to Girard. Motorists turned to secondary roads like Main Street in Manayunk, but found more flooding there. Many commuters tried Ridge Avenue through Roxborough, but quickly traffic came to a stop.

"I am seeing Ridge Avenue packed beyond what I've ever seen it before," resident Bob Miller said.

The Schuylkill River was already raging as even more rain fell.

Martin Luther King Drive flooded out and the floodwaters on Kelly Drive got even deeper. Lincoln Drive was also flooded out.

It seemed there was simply no way for commuters to get where they needed to go.

"First, I tried coming down Walnut Lane in Germantown and you realize the only reason traffic moved is because everyone turned off Walnut Lane," commuter Cheree Wylie said.

"I am ready to turn around and go home, but it would take as long to turn around so I am going to try to keep going on to work," Mount Airy resident Pam Tate said.

Meanwhile in Yardley, Bucks County people went to sleep assuming they'd be OK, and then awoke to the ugly reality that river levels had spiked suddenly and they needed to get out.

"I looked outside my front door and the river was coming down the road and I called my brother, I said, 'Help. The river is in my backyard,'" Yardley resident Candice Carver said.

Entire neighborhoods near the river were flooded.

Yards were swamped and families were forced from their homes.

Water rescue teams ferried some to dry ground.

A shelter has been opened at the William Penn School for those with nowhere to go.

But families along the Delaware aren't the only ones displaced.

Yardley resident Pat Ridge tried to help a huge carp who found himself trying to swim on Afton Road. He eventually made it back to the river

A flash flood hit the New Hope area around 4:00 a.m. sending several feet of water into River Road and homes and businesses along the way.

Several people had to be rescued from their homes including Jean Brooks and her dog.

Brooks was one of 12 people rescued from the Water View Condominium on River Road.

New Hope Eagle Company Fire Chief Tom Markey says there were others during the overnight hours, as well and it's not easy.

"Most of this was all done in the dark, which is really tough on the rescue," Markey said.

The living quarters at Water View Condominium were not flooded, but cars were another story.

A tree hit the bridge between New Hope and Lambertville, New Jersey closing the span until it can be inspected.

The homes on one side of Bluestone Creek in Warrington, a 55 and older community, flooded after Hurricane Irene and again this morning. The homes on the other side never flooded before, until today.

"This is my dream home...now look what happens, it's all destroyed now, we're just devastated, I can't believe it," Warrington resident Elizabeth Clare said.

"We heard this loud crash and the water came gushing through the back of our house, and the water was coming through with such force, it just literally knocked you down; the basement was filled in no time at all," resident Joanne Spoltore said.

Joanne and Tom Spoltore lost everything in their finished basement, where they kept their office, home theater, precious pictures and important documents.

"It's very sad because it happened so fast, you couldn't save anything," Tom Spoltore said.

But earlier today, they thought they might have lost their most important treasure - their daughter.

"Her car became submerged and she called me on the phone, we could see her car shut down. I was afraid she was locked in the car, I was afraid she wouldn't be able to get out of it," Joanne said.

"I really thought the water was going to wash her away, cause she struggled walking across the street to get back to the house," Tom said.

She made it, but had to go to the emergency room for minor injuries.

Meantime, about 12 households have been told they have to evacuate from the neighborhood and homeowners in this Warrington community have no idea when they will be able to return.

It looks like the cost of repairs in Bluestone Creek will have to come out of the homeowners' pockets; a standard homeowner's insurance policy does not cover damage from flooding and because these residents do not live in a floodplain, they do not have flood insurance.

The stories do not end there.

The family of a pair of cousins pitched in today to move them out of their flood stricken home in the 7100 block of Lafayette Avenue in Fort Washington in Montgomery County.

The entire first floor was flooded out. Their loss included two big screen televisions.

The two cousins had considerable damage due to Hurricane Irene and now this storm that seemed to come out of nowhere.

"Last night, we were completely shocked about what happened; we weren't expecting it at all," flood victim Allison Seiferth said.

The water got so high they were forced to flee to the second floor until rescuers came.

Several houses on Lafayette were damaged by the charging waters from two creeks, the Wissahickon and the Sandy Run.

It was also a terrifying night for residents of the 200 block of Maple Street in Ambler.

"This is not the first flood we've had; this is like the fifth one I had to live through and I can't take it no more," Ambler resident Yvette Lonon said.

Firefighters rescued about 30 people from their homes after floodwaters caused a warehouse building to collapse, sending debris into the street. The force of the water floated and flipped over cars as if they were bathtub toys.

"It came from Main Street in Ambler. It flooded down from up there, it clogged the waterway which added to the problem," Center Square Fire Chief Lee Miller said.

On Main Street, floodwaters inundated D'Agostino Carpets showroom and warehouse leaving behind a muddy mess of inventory and office equipment.

The inventory can be replaced, but not Philip D'Agostino's priceless collection of antique toys and movie memorabilia.

Returning back to Philadelphia, the floodwaters caved in an exterior wall and caused the first floor to collapse in the Bethlehem Church of God Holiness in Germantown.

"I know we've had floods before, but when they called me and told me, I never would have imagined this, never," Howard Whitner of the Bethlehem Church of God Holiness said.

Across the street, another church was trying to cleanup, just three weeks after spending $10,000 in renovations. The new pews, equipment and organ are a total loss.

"I'm saddened by the situation, but I still have my joy, but it's going to take a lot to rebuild," Pastor Todd Dunbar of the Praise, Power, and Deliverance Ministries said.

The intense rain just overwhelmed the drains.

The water line reached almost 8 feet high in spots.

One man captured on camera could only wait on top of his car until rescue crews arrived.

"I guess Mother Nature just did what she does, we couldn't even figure it out," Allen Glover of Germantown said.

Glover's home is now a muddy mess.

He and other residents, all around the viewing area, say flooding has been a problem, but never to this extent.

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