Last updated: March 12. 2013 12:31PM - 1685 Views

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WILKES-BARRE - A mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas in the Wyoming Valley, including those protected by the levee system, was ordered by Luzerne County officials Thursday morning.
Residents were told to evacuate by 4 p.m. Thursday.
The Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre is expected to reach 39.6 feet by Friday morning. At 6:30 a.m., the river was 29.07 feet.
Despite the evacuation, officials remain confident that the levees will hold.
"There is a 30 percent chance that the river will go higher than that," county Commissioner Stephen Urban said during a Thursday morning news conference at the Emergency Management Building. "We're confident that the levees will hold. However, we're going to order a mandatory evacuation of the areas affected by the Agnes flood in 1972. We're going to ask everyone leave the area by 4 p.m. Get out of the area."
Approximately 115000 residents will be affected by the full-scale evacuation.
Jim Brozena, executive director for the county Flood Protection Authority, said levees are continually monitored and tested, and have not settled since they were raised 10 to 12 years ago.
"One of the things we do as part of our maintenance operations, we do surveys of the levees, we are sure they are the proper height that they were originally constructed too," Brozena said.
Steve Bekanich, EMA coordinator, said those people being evacuated should take water, prescription medications, identification cards including driver's licenses, insurance documents, house and car keys.
Evacuation shelters have been set up at the Pittston Area High School, Luzerne County Community College and the State Street School in Larksville. Two additional evacuation shelters are scheduled to open later today, Brozena said.
Brozena said evacuated residents can take their pets to the shelters but sstrongly added to bring pet food.
"We are going this with the safety of the citizens in the county," Bekanich said. "We want to make sure people have ample opportunity to get out of the area that has the potential to be impacted by this near record flooding situation that is affecting our area."
The National Weather Service in Binghamton, N.Y., has issued a flash flood warnings for Luzerne County until 2 p.m. Thursday. An area of excessive rainfall is moving into the county at 8 a.m. that has the potential of one to two additional inches of rain by late Thursday morning.

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