Parts of Bucks County condominium complex may be "totally gone" after flood

Several hundred people are impacted by the flood damage at the Lafayette Gardens condominium complex.
BENSALEM, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- People around Bucks County are taking stock of the damage after an unrelenting storm dumped torrential rain on the area, leading to what experts are calling a "100-year flood."

The mayor of Bensalem said he has reached out to state representatives in an effort to secure state assistance after the destruction on Monday.

At Lafayette Gardens Condominium in Bensalem, residents returned on Tuesday morning to look for pets and medication. The building was too damaged for them to stay there overnight.

Spray-painted X marks could been seen on doors all around the complex.

They were left by search and rescue crews during the height of the flooding as they went door to door to look for people trapped because the strong waters prevented doors from opening.

Marine units making the rescues on Monday had to navigate through the water and dodge submerged cars after nearly 10 inches of rain fell.

First responders rescued everyone, and no one was hurt or killed.

On Tuesday night you could hear the mud left from the flooding through each step Larry Carastro took in his now damaged condo. Everything he owned inside his home is ruined.

"You know, you see things on the news and you think this is somebody else, this isn't going happen to me. But then it did and you learn some valuable lessons," said Carastro.

He figured he only had one place to go.

"I'm gonna go to the shelter probably. As of right now, I don't know what to do," said Carastro.

Susan Horvath, who is blind, is grateful first responders found her in time.

"The water came up above my knees and I couldn't open a door, and they broke my window and brought me out through the window," said Horvath, who returned with the help of family to search for her purse and find her medicine.

Bradley Folger and Latonya Butler are engaged to be married in just a few weeks. Their apartment sits close to a creek that overflowed and the floodwater actually broke their front window.

"It was to the point if I didn't get that door open I was going to break the door open," said Folger.

"We just had to grab what we needed to grab," added Butler

RELATED: '100-year flood' hit part of the Philly region | Explainer

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The torrential rain that flooded parts of the region is being termed a "100-year flood." Meteorologist Cecily Tynan explains.

It's still too dangerous for people to return to stay inside their units, but by Tuesday, residents were allowed inside to grab the essentials - including animals. Many were at work when the storm ripped through and some of their pets were left behind.

County, state and federal officials toured the damage on Tuesday, hopeful they can secure aid to help citizens.

"We've sent a letter to the governor asking him to declare an emergency, but we have to meet a dollar amount," said Republican State Senator Tommy Tomlinson.

Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick was also on-site, adding if the state is granted the emergency declaration then he can help with aid on the federal level.

"Once the state designates through PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency), and an emergency declaration, then it comes to the federal level and that's when we make our pitch to make sure these people are taken care of," Fitzpatrick said.

The Red Cross said Tuesday night that it was assisting roughly 100 county residents with shelter and essentials.

A community resource center will be open in Bensalem Wednesday inside the Maltese Room behind the Cornwells Fire Company at 2049 Bristol Pike in Bensalem.

The center will be open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Anyone whose home was flooded and has not yet received Red Cross assistance is encouraged to come to the center.

Township officials think it's possible second-floor residents of the Lafayette Gardens Condominium could return in the next couple of days. But many who lived on the first floor won't be as lucky.

"Here's 66 units that are probably totally gone - you're talking about a couple hundred people here. We have other areas in the township that got hit. It was a strange storm - a lot of rainwater quickly," explained Bensalem Director of Public Safety Fred Harran.

Gabby Sartarelli shared cellphone footage of her unit.

"It's just completely destroyed," Sartarelli said in her video of the damage.

The silver lining is that Sartarelli was reunited with her cat, Harley.

"She was really scared- just terrified," Sartarelli said, holding Harley in her arms.

Now that the water has receded, Bensalem officials are getting a more detailed picture of the damage.

"I know there's one building that's buckled - no one is going in there. All the first floor's windows are broken, everything's flooded," Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo said.

DiGirolamo added, "I don't see anyone coming back for quite a while. We'll have to make arrangements in the meantime."

Storm Resource Information

  • If your car was towed during the storm please contact Bensalem Township Police Department at 215-633-3719.

  • If you are in need of shelter, a community resource center will be open in Bensalem Wednesday inside the Maltese Room behind the Cornwells Fire Company at 2049 Bristol Pike in Bensalem.

  • If you have property damage, please contact Keri Schiavo at the Bensalem Township Police Department at 215-633-3741. If no answer, please leave a message and someone will return your call within 24 hours.

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