WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) - As the Pittsburgh area braces for rain from the remnants of Ida, emergency crews are getting ready to make sure everybody is safe.
Washington County Public Safety crews say all eyes are on communities along the Monongahela River, like Charleroi. They're expecting the river to peak at around 38 feet, which would put the river in a major flooding stage, so they're doing everything they can to be ready.
The boats are out and ready to go and the command center is up to speed in case it needs to be dispatched. These are just some of the ways the county's public safety team is preparing for what could be a bad day.
"We are here to support any local EMA coordinators with any requests they have," said Washington County Interim Public Safety Director Ryan Frazee.
Support like extra boats, equipment, you name it. While local agencies look to the county for help if they need it, some are also preparing on their own.
"Yesterday, we went through all of our pumps in case we have any localized flooding. Today, we are going through all of our swift water rescue equipment," said North Strabane Township Assistant Fire Chief Richard Yosi.
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They even have a trailer prepped outside with all kinds of equipment in it like life jackets, helmets and a stretcher.
"Already prepped two boats mounted on trailers today. We are going through full water rescue trailers in case we get deployed anywhere in the state," said Yosi.
The Elrama Volunteer Fire Department in Union Township had a busy Tuesday, with teams responding to flooding on roadways and at people's homes. The chief said at one point, every major road in the township had flooding.
Crews from Washington County may also be called on to assist neighboring Greene county.
"With a county of few resources, we rely on others to come to us when we don't have the capability of critical incidents and swift water rescue would be one," said Greene County Commissioner Mike Belding.
However, there are some things Greene County has been doing.
"Increased communication, make sure we have awareness of traditionally troublesome areas and what might happen there," said Belding. "We have crews on standby that are capable, whether it's volunteer fire service, we have a paid EMS services so we have more crews alert and available."
The message first responders from all over Greene and Washington counties have been sending is if you see ponding in the road, turn around and don't drive through it.
At 90-plus years, Ann Woodall has seen a lot, including the Loyalhanna's normally peaceful state turn to a roiling destructive rage.
"That's a lot of power in the water," said Woodall.
A flooded Loyalhanna has claimed property in the past and now Ida and her potential torrential rains are about to bear down on Woodall's Ligonier neighborhood.
"A few years ago, my neighbors made me come out. I didn't expect the house to wash away," she said.
It didn't, but several neighbors' homes were destroyed. She says she's concerned, but not worried.
"Worry doesn't help, it's not going to change this," she said.
And the 90-plus-year-old widow says she's ready to go if the Loyalhanna leaves its banks.
"I have a bag that's ready that has things in it I might need. And I have a lot of friends to take me in," she said.
Before noon Tuesday, PennDOT crews could be found laying down dozens of sandbags along Westmoreland County roads that funnel heavy rain into low-lying areas.
"We're going to activate early tomorrow morning and we expect to be running 24 hours straight through the event," said Westmoreland County Director of Public Safety Bud Mertz.
Ida could bring serious amounts of water set to pour into waterways already running high.
"Our creek beds are swollen, and a lot of ground saturation," said Mertz. "We're going to be monitoring the swift water rescue teams and their deployments and make sure we have the nearest team responding to calls for rescue."
Bud Mertz says if you find yourself in a vehicle and you come across a flooded roadway, don't chance it. "Turn around don't drown" is more than a catchphrase, it's advice that could literally save your life.
In Pittsburgh, the city is preparing for potential flooding. The PWSA is cleaning out catch basins and storm drains.
The Swift Water Flood Response team will be staffed starting at midnight to respond to any areas that are hit hard by flooding.
Extra street, forestry and power crews will also be out to handle any downed trees or power lines.
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