River has crested, but rain set to return

By Ed Lewis - [email protected]
Hunlock Township’s Garden Drive-In is seen waterlogged after runoff from the mountain alongside Route 11 began flooding the parking lot Wednesday morning. - Ed Lewis | Times Leader
A swollen Harveys Creek is seen from Route 11 on Wednesday morning in West Nanticoke, Plymouth Township, near where the creek enters the Susquehanna River. - Ed Lewis | Times Leader
The Susquehanna River’s muddy waters rush under the Market Street Bridge shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday at a height of about 28.5 feet. The river crested about four hours earlier at 28.77 feet. It is expected to gradually decline, although rain on Thursday and Friday could halt its descent around the 15-foot mark, the National Weather Service has predicted. - Roger DuPuis | Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — The crest has come and the river has fallen.

The rain-swollen Susquehanna hit 28.77 feet at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday before slowly beginning to recede, according to National Weather Service observations.

The mighty waterway may be calming, but its ascent into moderate flood stage — together with runoff from streams, creeks and other rivers — created havoc for many across the region this week.

With flood stage beginning at 22 feet, the agency said a flood warning for the region remains in place until Thursday evening as the river level gradually descends.

In Hunlock Township, Doug Barbacci has gone through this before.

Barbacci and a team of volunteers with pickup and box trucks were busy early Wednesday removing equipment from the concession stand at the popular Garden Drive-In along Route 11 due to flooding.

Just before 7 a.m. in ankle-deep water, Barbacci and others pushed movie projectors, movie reels, DVD players and food machines out of the flooded building.

Barbacci, owner of the drive-in, said the concession stand and a large area of the viewing parking lot began flooding at about 5 a.m. from stormwater runoff from the mountain alongside Route 11.

But the greater danger came from the Susquehanna River.

When the river reaches 29 feet, it begins to pour over the levee next to the drive-in, Barbacci said.

“It comes right over at 29 feet. When it comes over, what happens due to the elevation of the lot and the concession stand, we’ll get 4 feet in there,” Barbacci said. “This flooding you see now happened in the last two hours and it came up fast.”

The river was just a few inches from the top of the levee at the drive-in when it finally crested.

“This happens every couple of years,” Barbacci said.

No ‘serious’ issues

Lucy Morgan, director of Luzerne County emergency management, said there were no serious problems associated with the river.

“We got lucky with this one,” Morgan said outside her office Wednesday.

A storm system that caused major flash flooding of creeks and streams “somehow” passed Luzerne County, she explained.

Columbia and Sullivan counties to the west, Schuylkill, Carbon and Monroe to the east and south, and the northern tier counties of Wayne, Susquehanna and Bradford sustained major damage from flash flooding earlier this week.

“It just seemed the storm went around us,” said Morgan.

Mostly farmlands along the river were flooded, she said, noting at least two houses along Susquehanna Avenue in West Pittston sustained basement flooding from the river.

Earthen and concrete levees protect most of the Wyoming Valley to a river level up to 43 feet.

West Pittston police reported on their Facebook page that Susquehanna Avenue was closed between Second Street and Luzerne Avenue as the low areas became inundated.

No levees protect West Pittston as Susquehanna Avenue begins to flood at a level of 27 to 28 feet.

As a safety precaution, the Luzerne County Flood Authority closed the pedestrian portals at Riverfront Park along North and South River streets in Wilkes-Barre, and along Riverside Drive in South Wilkes-Barre near the Wilkes-Barre Railroad Connecting Bridge.

Nesbitt Park was inundated, with the city closing the access road Tuesday.

Route 11 in West Nanticoke, Plymouth Township, remained open despite a threat by Harveys Creek threatening to topple over its concrete channel.

Harveys Creek flows into the river near the bridge at Routes 11 and 29.

Looking ahead

According to NWS predictions as of Wednesday evening, Susquehanna River levels were expected to gradually decline from 28 feet to about 15 feet by 6 a.m. Friday, and then stay in that range into Saturday.

That’s because more rain is expected to fall on the Wyoming Valley during Thursday and Friday, NWS said:

• Thursday will bring a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 3 p.m. New rainfall amounts are likely to be less than a tenth of an inch; higher amounts are possible in thunderstorms.

• On Friday, showers and thunderstorms are likely after 1 p.m., and they could produce heavy rain.

Hunlock Township’s Garden Drive-In is seen waterlogged after runoff from the mountain alongside Route 11 began flooding the parking lot Wednesday morning.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_Garden-Drivein-3-6.jpgHunlock Township’s Garden Drive-In is seen waterlogged after runoff from the mountain alongside Route 11 began flooding the parking lot Wednesday morning. Ed Lewis | Times Leader

A swollen Harveys Creek is seen from Route 11 on Wednesday morning in West Nanticoke, Plymouth Township, near where the creek enters the Susquehanna River.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_Garden-Drivein2-6.jpgA swollen Harveys Creek is seen from Route 11 on Wednesday morning in West Nanticoke, Plymouth Township, near where the creek enters the Susquehanna River. Ed Lewis | Times Leader

The Susquehanna River’s muddy waters rush under the Market Street Bridge shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday at a height of about 28.5 feet. The river crested about four hours earlier at 28.77 feet. It is expected to gradually decline, although rain on Thursday and Friday could halt its descent around the 15-foot mark, the National Weather Service has predicted.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_photo-4-1-1.jpgThe Susquehanna River’s muddy waters rush under the Market Street Bridge shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday at a height of about 28.5 feet. The river crested about four hours earlier at 28.77 feet. It is expected to gradually decline, although rain on Thursday and Friday could halt its descent around the 15-foot mark, the National Weather Service has predicted. Roger DuPuis | Times Leader
Susquehanna has crested, but rain set to return

By Ed Lewis

[email protected]