Rain leads to street, basement flooding
A Wednesday afternoon rainstorm dumped a lot of water in a fairly short amount of time on southwestern Indiana County, causing streams to swell, basements to flood and roads to close.
According to National Weather Service radar estimates, between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 inches of rain fell on the area Tuesday afternoon. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recorded 4 inches of rain between Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon at its Conemaugh River Dam and Loyalhanna Lake Dam.
But whatever the precise amount, it was enough to keep firefighters running from one call to another for hours on end.
"It looks like a bomb went off in the lower part of town," said Saltsburg fire Chief John Dice.
Dice said his department received roughly 25 calls for help, mostly for flooded basements. But firefighters also were asked to rescue an 81-year-old woman with heart trouble whose Loyalhanna Township home had become surrounded by floodwaters.
PennDOT officials said high water forced the closure of Route 286 from Water Street in Saltsburg to Nowrytown Road in Conemaugh Township. The road was reopened by this morning. A section of Route 981 also had been closed.
In the Tunnelton area, so much water was rolling off the hillsides, it looked like waterfalls, said Tunnelton-Connemaugh Township fire department Chief Rick Bouch.
He, too, said his department had multiple calls for flooded basements as well as a flooded business. A small stream overflowed, rushed into Brosko's Auto Repair along Pump Station Road, leaving the shop floor 3 feet underwater.
And the basement of a home off of Route 981 filled all the way with water, shorting electrical fixtures and filling the home with smoke, he said.
Elsewhere, Bouch said, floodwaters lifted a trailer off its foundation and washed away a water recreation business on the Conemaugh River.
He said his department was out responding to calls from noon to midnight.
"It was a little overwhelming," Bouch said.
In Blairsville, firefighters spent the day pumping out 35 to 40 basements, which had filled with anywhere between 6 inches and 4 feet of water, said fire Chief George Burkley.
He said the rainfall overwhelmed storm drains on the side streets. But on two of its main thoroughfares, Market Street and Walnut streets, water ponded at the drains due to milling work that took the road surfaces below the level of storm grates.
It caused water to rush in through a back door at Bergman Hardware, flooding the business.
PHOTO: Evans Avenue in Blairsville was flooded Wednesday. (DENISE DUNMIRE/Submitted photo)