HARRISBURG — Parts of Dauphin, Lebanon, Schuylkill and neighboring counties were among the areas hardest hit by flooding Monday as storms streamed through Central Pennsylvania, with rising waters leading to the closure of Knoebels Amusement Resort and Hersheypark.
Luzerne County had yet to see any serious flooding as of Monday evening, but the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flash flood watch for all of Northeastern Pennsylvania through Wednesday evening as rains is expected to continue.
As of 6 p.m. Monday the Susquehanna River at Wilkes-Barre was at 1.7 feet, NWS reported, with the river forecast to crest at 17.5 feet on Thursday — below flood stage, which is 22 feet.
Forecasts for areas upriver, including Wyoming County, showed the river cresting well below flood stage over the coming days, though flooding risks persist for creeks and other waterways.
Other than flash flooding, officials said Monday that the only real risk to Luzerne County would be if the storm stalled over the area for a prolonged period, preventing the Susquehanna from receding.
Showers could bring several inches of rain to Northeastern Pennsylvania before the storms finally taper off on Friday, NWS reported.
One of the spots hardest hit so far appears to be the Pine Grove area of Schuylkill County, where a shelter was opened at Pine Grove Area High School.
The highest threat for flash flooding is in south-central Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency says. The threat also includes north-central and eastern parts of the state, with at least another 1-2 inches forecast. With more rain expected this week, much of central Pennsylvania is under a flash flood watch until Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
“You’ve had two days in a row of some very heavy rainfall,” said Dave Samuhel, a meteorologist with AccuWeather. “It’s led to a lot of problems.”
It’s not just the volume of rain, Samuhel said. The rain fell very rapidly across central Pennsylvania over the past two days.
“We’re quickly piling up two or three inches of rain in places,” Samuhel said. “The ground is saturated. There’s nowhere for it to go. And that’s what’s really led to some of the major problems we’ve seen.”
The Pa. Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) said it’s working with its county partners to monitor conditions in areas that are seeing or might see flooding.
In Northumberland County, about two dozen basements pumpings and a street lifting up from flooding has resulted in the Mount Carmel mayor declaring a state of emergency, said Steve Jeffery, Northumberland County EMA director.
A flash flood watch also was effect through late Monday for Berks, Delaware, eastern Chester, eastern Montgomery, Lehigh, Lower Bucks, Philadelphia, Upper Bucks, western Chester, and western Montgomery counties.
Ruth Miller, director of communications, said two state Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Teams were being placed on ready status. “They will be stationed in Johnstown and Fort Indiantown Gap. So far, local-level water rescue teams have been able to handle water rescues but because flash flooding happens so quickly, we are better positioned to assist if we have personnel ready to go when the request comes in,” she said.
In addition, she said that four high clearance vehicles from the Pennsylvania National Guard are working in Schuylkill County to help evacuate residents to shelters as needed.
In Northumberland County, about two dozen basements pumpings and a street lifting up from flooding resulted in the Mount Carmel mayor declaring a state of emergency, said Steve Jeffery, Northumberland County EMA director.
Basements, which were flooded several inches to several feet, were pumped out and the situation was under control by about 12:30 p.m., he said, with people able to stay in their homes. The water came from stormwater backing up through storm drains.
Times Leader News Editor Roger DuPuis contributed to this report.