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Drenching Rains Close Roads, Prompts Rescues In Central And Eastern Pennsylvania

Matt Rourke
Workers clean up debris swept into the street during flooding in Upper Darby, Pa., Monday, Aug. 13, 2018.

Overnight rains triggered flash flooding in parts of central and eastern Pennsylvania on Monday, closing down a heavily traveled interstate and sending water into homes in the mountainous coal regions.

State highway and emergency management officials reported numerous closed roads in a wide swath of the state from Williamsport to the Philadelphia suburbs, and some motorists had to be rescued.

Hazel Coles said water rose so quickly at her home in Darby, outside Philadelphia, that she had to evacuate through a window. She said there was about 3 feet of water on her street, and some people had to be evacuated by boat. She said the Red Cross was helping displaced residents.

"It's just crazy," she said. "I thank God it wasn't worse."

The National Weather Service in State College said there were numerous reports of 6 inches of rain or more in Schuylkill and Columbia counties.

Meteorologist Aaron Tyburski said the latest downpours followed weeks of a stalled weather pattern that is drawing moisture from the Atlantic Ocean, hitting some communities repeatedly.

"It's been quite a rough go for them over the past three weeks," Tyburski said.

In the Benton area north of Bloomsburg, Fishing Creek spilled from its banks Monday, sending out a torrent of chocolate brown water.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said a helicopter rescue was planned for people on the roofs of homes in that part of northern Columbia County, but weather needed to clear before the helicopter could take off early Monday afternoon.

High water in Port Carbon caused some evacuations and prompted firefighters to launch rescue boats and rafts. Parts of Pottsville were inundated, and three shelters were set up.

Schuylkill County emergency management director John Matz said water levels were starting to fall by early afternoon Monday and officials were making plans to assess the damage. He said the recent flooding could have caused more damage than the high water that hit the county a few weeks ago and affected several hundred structures.

"The difference now is, once we hit the center part of the county, it's a more populated area," Matz said.

In the Philadelphia area, the Schuylkill Expressway was closed in both directions at the busy King of Prussia Mall exit. The waters affected dozens of stores and a parking garage at the mall.

Upper Darby and Montgomery County police reported numerous rescues of people trapped in cars by flooding.

The National Weather Service office issued a flash flood warning and urged people not to drive through flooded roads.

Gov. Tom Wolf activated the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center on Monday morning and the National Guard was notified to be ready to help, if needed.

The forecast calls for storms to continue and cause flooding in the southcentral, northcentral and eastern parts of the state through Wednesday.