DuBOIS (AP) — Heavy rains and powerful winds brought flash flooding, road closures, downed trees and tornado watches across much of Pennsylvania as a wild thunderstorm traveled eastward on Thursday.
Residents in central Pennsylvania are cleaning up after severe thunderstorms swept through the region, causing flooding, damaging homes and forcing evacuations.
No serious injuries were immediately reported from Thursday night’s storms. But officials are investigating several reports of possible tornadoes and flooding is still imminent in other areas today. Among the hardest hit were DuBois and other parts of west-central Pennsylvania, after several inches of rain Thursday afternoon followed two days of storms. Officials warned of possible tornadoes in south-central Pennsylvania and funnel clouds were spotted in at least two counties in central Pennsylvania. Jefferson and Clearfield counties each declared disaster emergencies. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said all roads into DuBois in Clearfield County were closed due to the high waters.
As of 8:30 p.m., PPL Electric Utilities reported about 2,400 customers without power, First Energy reported about 2,200 outages and PECO estimated about 1,400 customers were in the dark.
People from 20 to 30 homes in Clearfield County needed rescue because of first-floor flooding, emergency officials said. Some areas received at least 6 inches of rain from the storm, said Elyse Colbert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College.
“Just a mess. An utter, complete mess,” said Edward Tate, owner of Luigi’s Ristorante in downtown DuBois. He called it the worst flooding he had seen in his 15 years in the area.
The restaurant was unaffected and remained open because it was on higher ground, though Tate said other businesses nearby may had have up to 5 feet of water. He rushed home to help a neighbor quickly clean up after flooding damaged a newly renovated basement.
One shelter in DuBois had about 20 people, and the American Red Cross set up two other shelters in the area, Executive Director Jason Bange said.
“This is pretty good-sized flooding in the area. A lot of people are affected,” Bange said.
Lamar Puyda watched from his porch in DuBois as some of his neighbors received help from emergency responders.
“Scary, because they’ve never had to be rescued before,” Puyda told WJAC-TV from his porch. “I’ve never seen it this bad.”
Sandy Lick Creek and the Tannery Dam overflowed, closing some roads in the area. WJAC showed video of at least one person being rescued by boat.
Tate praised area firefighters for their quick work in the tight-knit community.
“That whole stretch down there along Main Street was significantly affected by this,” he said. “The firemen did an amazing job.”
Heavy rains fell on already waterlogged ground, Colbert said, though the worst of the rainfall appeared to have left that area by late afternoon.
“There’s areas that have gotten 6 inches or more,” Colbert said. “So it’s a lot of rain in a short period of time.”
In Jefferson County, emergency dispatchers reported flooding in and around Sykesville, Reynoldsville and Big Run along the U.S. Route 119 corridor southeast of DuBois. County spokeswoman Karen Lupone said Sykesville appeared to be worst hit, with sandbags deployed to protect from further flooding from the Stump and Mahoning creeks. There were no reported injuries or evacuations from homes in the county, Lupone said, though seven visitors to Clear Creek State Park were evacuated to a shelter in Sigel. Officials were eager to begin the process of evaluating damages, she said.
Flooding forced the closure of a handful of roads in Centre County including Atherton Street, a main thoroughfare through State College bordering Penn State University. Emergency officials received reports of potential tornadoes in Clinton County and Centre County, and teams were dispatched this morning to investigate. County emergency management officials could not be reached, while a trooper at the state police barracks in Lamar said they had not received calls about weather-related damage. The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for southwestern Juniata and southwestern Perry counties.