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Ice Jams Lead To Some Flooding & Evacuations

PITTSBURGH (KDKA)- The rain and warmer temperatures caused ice jams to break loose on local rivers and creeks Wednesday and some people had to be rescued by boats when flood waters cut off access to their homes.

Several people had to be evacuated from their homes on Shady Lane Wednesday afternoon by a Beaver County swift water rescue team.

The road, which runs alongside Raccoon Creek in Independence Township, became one of the spots for dangerous flash flooding.

Debbie Deparre, who works the third shift, said she woke up to flooding outside of her door. She called 911 and was rescued.

"I work third shift, so when I came home this morning at 6 a.m., I went to bed, and I woke up at 2 o'clock to this flooding," Deparre said.

Independence Township Fire Chief Jeri New said she was not certain where the ice jam was, "but it backed up into yards pretty quickly."

Ben Delouis picked up his dad by the side of a road, and had to bring him home in a canoe.

"Every year, when [the ice] melts, the water comes up," Delouis said.

Another longtime local resident, Mike Hudak, said "Yikes, I've never seen the creek overflowing like this."

Neighbors are hoping the colder weather will help ease the creek from overflowing its banks.

Closer to the city of Pittsburgh, George Buhaly's home under the Boston Bridge is usually a nice vantage point to enjoying the flow of the Yough River as it wanders by.

KDKA's John Shumway Reports:

But right now, with an ice jam stopping everything, the muddy waters are threatening to become an unwanted visitor.

Buhaly: "Usually every seven to ten years, we get a good one, so we're overdue."

KDKA's John Shumway: "You seem to be taking it pretty well."

Buhaly: "Well, what are you going to do... move your stuff, bring it back in."

Two to two and a half inches of rain over the Chestnut and Laurel Ridges is all flowing in this direction and a lot of it crowding into the Yough.

"Mother Nature has to work its way through there as the river rises, and we're expecting the Yough to rise another eight feet, and that's going to bust the ice out and move it down stream," says Joe Palko, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Pittsburgh.

The major question is - will that happen before it floods homes along the riverbank?

Elsewhere, the Mon River is rising, but experts are not anticipating much of an issue before it crests Thursday. And the frozen Allegheny River got mostly snow in its valleys and it is holding fast.

"That ice that is on the Allegheny has not moved," said Palko.

Most of the road crew trucks haven't moved this afternoon either, except crews heading out to fill a pothole or two. But things will get active here as snow approaches the area.

In fact, the break in the weather this afternoon actually let the main roads almost dry out, making pre-treating possible.

Meanwhile, rescue boats were called to the scene in Ligonier Township after ice jams there led to some flooding early this morning in the small community of Red Rock. The Loyalhanna Creek along Darlington Road started to overflow its banks around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"I could hear metal that ripped the rain gutters off the one house," said Betsy Kruel, a flooding victim. "You could hear the metal tearing."

Crews had to block off a bridge over the creek, as homes on the other side were surrounded by water. Officials at the scene said homes along three or four small streets next to the creek are being voluntarily evacuated.

"We had one, two, three, four… four different rescues," said Kruel.

KDKA's Christine D'Antonio Reports:

Emergency crews sounded the alarm to alert residents and called in water rescue crews to assist in evacuating anyone who wanted to leave. Two rescue boat teams were on the scene to help.

Six people and several dogs were evacuated from their homes in Ligonier Township overnight. It is unclear when they will be allowed to return to their homes.

"Well, they came to pick us up because we couldn't get out. He had to carry us on his back to the raft and then he pulled us to where we could get out into my car," Carol Lynn said.

The water that deposited the ice in Red Rock would move on to feed the raging Loyalhanna downstream.

In Hempfield Township, there was a different kind of flooding, but still damaging nevertheless.

"Clean out the garage and basement as far as mud and debris," said Scott Kocevar, of Hempfield Township.

KDKA's Ross Guidotti Reports:

Meanwhile, back in Red Rock, Wednesday was about the cleanup effort, knowing yet another ice jam was apparent several miles upstream, heading their way.

"You never know how a creek is going to take off. It'll make its own way when it's blocked," Kruel said.

Another ice jam led to some flooding in Oakdale overnight.

flooding 1

The ice jam was discovered around midnight in the north branch of the Chartiers Creek, just off of Clinton Avenue Extension.

Crews had to break up the ice jam in the creek to alleviate the flooding.

Water did spill onto the roads in the area, but no homes were affected.

Crews will keep an eye on the creek so they can prevent any future ice jams.

National Weather Service Hydrologist Joe Palko joined the "KDKA Morning News" with Larry Richert and John Shumway to talk about the flooding across the area.

"An inch or more has fallen through much of Allegheny County. It causes the smaller streams and creeks to rise (and) cause some flooding," Palko said. "Another thing we're having this morning is a lot of snow in the northern part of Allegheny County (and) southern Butler - one to two, even three inches of quickly half-dollar size snowflakes are falling there."

Palko also said Westmoreland County was hit hard overnight.

Rivers rising is another concern.

"The Mon River is expected to rise over the next day or so," he said.

The Parking Authority has closed the Mon Warf until further notice.

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