WILKES-BARRE — At least minor flooding can be expected along the Susquehanna River over the coming days, but officials also acknowledge uncertainty over how high the water will rise before it crests.
Flood stage for the river at Wilkes-Barre is 22 feet. National Weather Service forecasts as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday predicted the waterway could crest at 22.6 feet at 1 p.m. Thursday.
That level would not impact structures but would cause land flooding in low-lying areas of Plains Township, Shickshinny and Plymouth Township.
Continuing rain later Tuesday kept pushing the crest forecast higher and later, however, with the possibility of heavy rain and thunderstorms continuing into Wednesday night.
As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, the river level was at 6.87 feet, and the forecast had been modified to project a crest of 22.7 feet at 8 p.m. Thursday.
The Wyoming Valley Levee protects its surrounding areas from flooding up to a river height of 42 feet.
The county’s emergency operation center is ready for activation if needed, Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri said Tuesday evening, adding: “We’re not there yet.”
The county is, however, “ready to provide assistance” in low-lying areas if needed, Pedri added.
The National Weather Service says “moderate flooding” begins at 28 feet and “major flooding” at 30 feet.
“River flooding extent and severity will depend on where the heaviest rain focuses tonight and Wednesday,” an NWS briefing issued Tuesday afternoon stated.
It added there was “significant uncertainty” at that point in predicting how high the river might get.
The highest river crest so far in 2018 in Wilkes-Barre was 27.4 feet on Jan. 25, according to NWS data. That’s when a massive ice jam on the river caused some flooding throughout the area, most notably in West Pittston.
The highest crest ever recorded came during the Lee flooding in September 2011 when the river at Wilkes-Barre reached 42.66 feet. The previous record was 40.91 feet during the Agnes flood in June 1972.
Officials pointed out that dangers are not limited to the river area, with flash-flooding possible around smaller waterways as well as in low-lying areas where rain might accumulate.
Pedri specifically cautioned residents to not drive through standing water.