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The Unforgettable Flood

This week we have been marking one year since the historic flooding in our area last September, sharing stories how communities are doing a year later.

It was one year when we were seeing the first flooding problems around our area. We have a closer look back at three days few of us will ever forget.

The first signs of trouble came September 7. Streams and creeks started roaring out of their banks, like Hemlock Creek near Bloomsburg.

Some places saw eight, nine, even 10 inches or more of rain, and the consequences of that sure piled up.

Before dawn on Thursday September 8, it was clear this was going to be no ordinary flooding for northeastern and central Pennsylvania. Part of Montoursville was underwater.

Rescues were beginning all over our area.

At first the streams were the big problem. All over Lycoming County waters were raging.

In Columbia County even Interstate 80 was closed and flooded as Fishing Creek kept spreading out of its banks.

In Schuylkill County, a neighborhood in Pine Grove was overtaken by water, and people overtaken by emotions.

As September 8 went on, we started to see the damage as the streams started to recede.

Homes were nearly wiped away.

As streams went down, rivers came roaring up.

It was a flash flood on the Susquehanna, and word went out from Wilkes-Barre, the Wyoming Valley must evacuate.

The roads quickly became jammed as around 150 thousand people fled their homes.

The river was rising faster than anyone expected.

In West Pittston, people who didn’t get away fast enough had to be taken out by boat.

From the air we saw almost half a community under water. West Pittston, just one of numerous communities not protected by levees, was overcome by the raging river.

In Bloomsburg National Guard helicopters were used for rescues.

Streets were swamped.

Only weeks before the big fair, the fairgrounds were a massive lake.

In Tunkhannock, historic high water.

The newly remodeled Dietrich Theater tried unsuccessfully to keep the water out.

The river went where it wanted to go.

In shickshinny, south of the levee system in Luzerne County, the water just kept coming up and up.

In areas protected by the levees it became watch, wait and worry.

The continuous updates from Luzerne County Emergency Management Officials said the levee was holding, but as night fell on that Thursday, problems began. Heavy equipment called in to shore up a trouble spot in Forty Fort.

People woke up the next morning, September 9 to learn of another spot water was leaking under the levee, dozens of trucks hauling rock came to help.

It was then that we learned the levee was dealing with water levels higher than it was designed for, gauges measuring the river were wrong! The crest was nearly two feet higher than Agnes in 1972.

The levee did hold, but with the river so high water backed up in places that never expected it. Duryea was swamped when the Lackawanna River couldn’t flow into the Susquehanna.

The images from the flooding are hard to forget. A few days in September, 2011, when water became the enemy and so much of our area the victim.


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