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Connellsville Mayor Declares State Of Emergency Due To Flooding

CONNELLSVILLE (KDKA) - A series of heavy downpours moved through the region last night, which caused some significant flooding in Fayette County.

As a result, Connellsville Mayor Greg Lincoln has declared a state of emergency. He spoke with "The KDKA Morning News" on Monday as residents worked to clean up following the latest round of severe weather.

"It's a pretty ugly scene down here," Mayor Lincoln said.

Lincoln said the Youghiogheny River, which runs through Connellsville, did not flood.

"It was just the streams that run into it," he said.

Mayor Lincoln estimated the streams rose 5 to 6 feet above their banks.

"I've never seen anything like this before, cars were just pushed everywhere," he said.

Lincoln added that crews were able to recuse those that were stranded and that about 30 families were impacted, but no one was seriously injured.

Meanwhile, officials with Pennsylvania American Water have issued a precautionary Boil Water Advisory for parts of Connellsville following the restoration of service.

Officials say the advisory is for about 65 customers living along Breakneck Road, Breakiron Road and East End Extension. They say "water should be boiled for a minimum of one minute before consumption and food preparation until further notice."

Officials have set up a tanker with water at two locations:

· Breakneck Market, at 425 Breakneck Road
· Bullskin Fire Station, at 260 Keefer Road

Customers are asked to bring their own containers.

Other residents continue the cleanup process.

"I got pictures, things that my kids bought me. You just keep going, it's all you can do," said Brian Blankenship, who lives in the Dutch Bottom section of Connellsville.

Blakenship says he's devastated, but not destroyed, after rising flood water damaged his home on Connell Avenue Sunday evening.

"[The] refrigerator fell over, freezer fell over, come half way up the stove, almost counter height," added Blankenship.

Early Monday, Blankenship was out helping his neighbors clean their homes and yards.

The rushing flood water tore apart fences, rearranged cars and crumbled streets and sidewalks.

Maria Pitonyak said it wasn't bad enough that her car was damaged by the flood, but there's also a hole in her basement.

"Just making sure that we were all safe and that it didn't get any worse than it did," said Pitonyak, when describing what she did after the flood damaged her property.

Monday was also supposed to be the first day of school for Connellsville students. Instead, Superintendent Phil Martell cancelled classes as workers cleared the flooded basement at Connellsville High School.

On Monday, it was announced that Connellsville Area School District would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday as well. 

"Safety was a priority and getting things cleaned up," said Martell.

At Mydell's restaurant on Buttermore Boulevard, the air conditioning unit now sits in the front yard. Pieces of pavement from a nearby greenhouse are scattered along the street.

Glen and Shelley Siple say their cars were swept away by the flood waters, and their home was destroyed.

"It's a one-story house on a slab with water inside up to there and everything is covered in mud it's ruined it's ruined."

The area surrounding Mountz Creek was hit hard.

"We have 29 homes they know, definitely 10 are gone. They are going through and all 29 are going to be a total loss," Mayor Lincoln said.

Only one homeowner had flood insurance.  PEMA was going house to house tallying the damage, as families carried out whatever they could salvage and a backhoe gobbled up the rest.

Meanwhile, in Bullskin Township, roads and bridges were washed out.

"I been in the fire company 50 years and I have never seen this deep," said Bull Skin Township VFD Chief Joseph Liska. "We probably got 60 homes up through here that's damaged."

The chief estimates 5-7 feet of water washed down Breakneck Road, wreaking havoc without discrimination. The area is without the water it needs to clean up due to a water main that was washed out in the deluge.

About 60 homes in the township were affected by the flooding in some way. Parts of Breakneck Road were closed Monday evening because huge chunks of asphalt had been picked up and moved by the flood waters.

Bonnie Prinkey said her boyfriend and two boys were at home when water poured in and started rising inside their house. They broke a kitchen window to yell for help from the neighbors.

One mobile home was moved about 40 feet by the water. The people inside got out just before the water picked it up.

State Sen. Pat Stefano said he'll do all he can to help the people in his community.

"I wanted to tour and see how bad it was," said Sen. Stefano.

PEMA Director Richard Flinn also toured the damage Monday evening. He said it is possible low interest loans may be available to help flood victims.

He says the problem is that many people have lost everything and have no insurance.

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