09 September 2011

Floodwaters receeding in Central Pennsylvania

It was just like old times last night: I spent the night in the hospital and it brought back plenty of memories from years and years of residency. Hospital graham crackers and peanut butter taste the same as they always did.
We have had several days of flood here in central Pennsylvania. Tropical Storm Lee sat over western Pennsylvania, spinning a continuous band of rain over the Susquehanna Valley. Wednesday school closed early because route 642 was going to be underwater soon and the buses wouldn't be able to get the children home. Our friend picked up the boys and took a detour home over Bald Top Mountain before that route closed too. Mahoning Creek rose to a wild muddy torrent and crested the railroad bridge at routes 11 and 54. State officials and townspeople gathered together to fill sandbags to block route 11 and keep the creek from flooding the center of town where the levee ends.

Here is a song and video by Van Wagner, a bluegrass musician here in Danville:


Downtown, street after street was coned off as the low crossings filled with water. Church St., Pine St., Ferry St., and even the main route Mill St. got too deep for cars to make it through. A canal runs through Danville where goods used to be floated to the railroad when there used to be factories here. The canal had crested its banks and was tearing away at the pavement on Ferry St. by the hardware store and beer distributor.

Part of the reason I am so well nestled into town is that I only have a mile commute to the hospital. That commute does involve crossing the Susquehanna River via the Riverside bridge. Yesterday the river hit the bottom of the bridge and there were rumors it might soon be submerged. I checked in with the incident command center at the hospital and decided to stay overnight just in case my route to the hospital went down.

Fortunately, it was a quiet night, and by morning the river had crested just under 32 feet. It was a close second to the record from Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and beat the previous second place from 1904. But the bridge was still open, so when my partner made it to the hospital, I headed back home for a shower. It was so sad to see all the houses along the river with water lapping at their first story windows. We were fortunate to only have a few inches in the basement which we kept at bay with a sump pump. It was a warm sunny day and it seemed the whole town was out, walking, pumping water, and dragging soggy belongings out of basements. I hope our neighbors displaced by the flood are back in their homes soon.