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Rains cause flooding in Centre County, with more potentially on the way

by on September 13, 2018 12:27 PM

MILESBURG — After three days of rain, area streams were running historically high and over their banks Sept. 10, causing residents to be evacuated from their homes, roads to be shut down and schools to be closed. With Hurricane Florence possibly hitting the area over the weekend, residents and emergency responders are preparing and hoping that things don’t get much worse.

In Milesburg, Joann Lose's basement flooded due to the Sept. 10 and 11 rains. The Milesburg Fire Company was on the scene to pump water out of the basement, which was empty — Lose decided after the flooding of 2004 not to keep anything down there. She was glad the recent flooding didn’t rise high enough to hit the first floor of her house, but to be safe she had moved everything she could to higher ground.

“I’m not sure if we should bring a lot of stuff back," said Lose. "My son has dirt bikes and four wheelers and we have cars that we moved. It takes a long time to move this stuff and clean up, and we might just have to do it all again."

She said she has a lot of help from friends and family who banded together, but it was scary seeing the water rise toward her house. “... You weren’t sure how bad it was going to get. With the way it was raining, you weren’t sure if it was going to come up into the house or not.”

Jeff Wharren, Centre County director of emergency management, said the streams rose steadily with the continued rainfall, creating a few rescue situations.

“We had a slow flooding event where it took a while to build up, and the streams became quite full. Several of them approached record levels,” said Wharren on Sept. 12. “Yesterday, when they started overflowing their banks, we experienced flooding is several parts of the county — some in Penns Valley along Penn Creek, some in Philipsburg and then in Milesburg and the Bald Eagle Valley and the Bald Eagle Creek.”

Wharren said a handful of people needed to be evacuated from their homes in Centre County by the Centre County Swift Water Task Force, which is made up of members from four area fire companies.

“They assisted some residents and some animals getting out. There were only a handful of evacuations, so it could have been much worse. We are fortunate in that regard.

“We continue to monitor stream levels. Obviously, the ground is saturated, so we are going to continue to look forward and try to do our best with what we are going to receive from Hurricane Florence.”

He said there were several shelters open in the area for people, including the Philipsburg YMCA and the Milesburg community shelter.

Eagle Valley Personal Care Home in Milesburg was evacuated, as  51 residents voluntarily left when waters began to rise. Some of the residents went to the homes of loved ones, while others stayed in hotels in State College. The facility did not end up experiencing any interior flooding, and staff and residents are hoping it stays that way.

“We are trying not to be worried, but we are just going to keep the residents safe," said Nikki Bloom, resident care coordinator at Eagle Valley. "That is our top priority — whatever we need to do.”

Philipsburg-Osceola School District was closed Sept. 11 due to the flooding.

Wharren said he is hoping Hurricane Florence doesn’t stall out over Centre County and continue to dump rain, as the ground is already saturated. He said residents should be aware of weather reports and prepare with extra rations in case of more flooding. He also said people in low-lying areas should make plans for evacuation, just in case. If there is a flood watch in the county, the Swift Water Task Force will be on alert, and if there is a flood warning it will be on-call at fire stations ready to help.

Wharren said those who are dealing with flooding can find tips on the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Administration website, www.pema.pa.gov, and can visit www.ready.pa.gov to find emergency preparedness guides.

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