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Dozens rescued from flooded Pittsburgh-area mobile home park

Rain hits Washington County hard in Pittsburgh area
Rain hits Washington County hard in Pittsburgh area 04:02

CANTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) -- Residents in Washington County are bracing for another round of rain and possible flooding Friday.

Canton Township was hit hard Thursday night, prompting evacuations and rescues, leaving some stranded for hours.

"We're standing by. We have the swift boats ready to go if something would happen again," said Washington County Commissioner Nick Sherman.

Sherman said about 50 people were displaced and three water rescue boats were launched to rescue them from the Washington Estates Mobile Home Park.

"After that, we had about 30 people that were displaced. Some went with local family and friends and the other ones were at the Canton Township Volunteer Fire Department, who set up a makeshift facility for the evening with showers, warm meals, beds to sleep and etc.," Sherman said.

Residents tell KDKA-TV the flooding happened within minutes. Video inside Kojak's Auto Body shop off Henderson Avenue shows rapid, rushing water flooding through the business, filling it up several feet high.

"A lot of places were really bad. Again, cars floating away, people displaced. So we're looking at, unfortunately, what we can do if it rains again tonight," Sherman said.

Jenna Murphy lives at Washington Estates and said it was around 8 p.m. when she looked outside and saw her car filled with water.

"It just happened so quickly. There was just -- we needed to get out," Murphy said.

She said she ran out of the house with her 9-month-old son and mother.

"My car was right here, right in front of my bedroom window. I saw it filling up, there was no way I could get it out," Murphy said. "I immediately jumped to grab my baby and I left because it was it was very -- it's very traumatizing."

She said before she knew it, her Kia was floating down the street. She said her family had to be rescued.

Meanwhile, Alyssa Horner and her fiancé told KDKA they were told to go to the Circle K gas station, which is a point of higher ground near Washington Estates.

"We got drenched over there. We were soaking wet, us and our 6-month-old daughter," Horner said.

She said when they got there, the worker inside told them and about 15 others that they couldn't stay. Horner said they had no choice but to stand outside and wait for rescue crews to arrive.

"We were stuck. We were like, it was like an island. Water was all the way around," Alec Trickett said.

They said nearly six hours later, the fire department was able to rescue them and get them to safety.

"They helped turn a dark situation with a little bit of light," Horner said.

Horner said their home, like many others, suffered damage, but are grateful for first responders who rescued them.

"Damages can be fixed, family can't. So everybody's safe, that's all that matters at this point. So that's where we're at," Trickett said.

As cleanup continues throughout the township, its crisis center is dealing with flooding issues as well.

"That was what's tremendously bad," Sherman said. "Here in Washington County, we do have the crisis center and in a crisis like this, when someone needs a place to stay, we would say send them to SPHS Care Crisis Center. And actually when we got the phone call last night, that was the first thing we thought of, is to send people here. But our public safety director told us that it was actually this building that was flooded out and unable to help people. So it was a double combination punch here where we got hit hard with the mobile estate around us that was hit and when we said 'take it to the crisis center,' the crisis center also had severe flood damage."

Sherman said the Canton Township Volunteer Fire Department was able to set up temporary shelter for those who needed it.

"Hats off to our public safety. I mean, they did a great job. Washington County Public Safety, Canton Township Volunteer Fire Department, the police, EMS, everyone really jumped in and did a great job," Sherman said.

Canton Township emergency management coordinator Joseph Joscsak said they will be monitoring conditions Friday night and will have Station 1 and Station 2 VFD available for anyone who may need shelter if the area were to flood again.

Joscsak applauded first responders for their efforts Thursday night along with the GG&C Bus Company, which assisted with transporting residents and animals.

As far as preventing flooding from happening in this area in the future, Sherman said it's not that easy.

"The way this works is, you have to do it from the rivers back. So essentially, you're looking at the Ohio River, and you're looking at that area and you'd have to start there and go back. If we fix this area and get rid of everything, the only thing that's going to do is the next town will get hit twice as hard because we've cleared the debris," Sherman said. "So unfortunately, this would have to be a regional flood plan and design that we would do. We would work with Allegheny County elected leaders there and again, start from the rivers and work our way back."

Sherman said the flooding is a bigger issue that local leaders are looking at to see what can be done and to make a plan for not only Canton Township but Pittsburgh and southwest Pennsylvania. 

In Houston, Washington County, the borough building filled with feet of water. A police car was engulfed and pushed across the street. 

The Chartiers-Houston girls' softball athletic director stands at 5-foot-9, as tall as the water line of the waters that decimated his girls' softball fields.

Chartiers Township closed several roads like Seik Road because the streams overflowed and created new rivers.

"I came through last night to check because I have animals in the barn and I came through and it was all the way up to the back of my truck when I turned into the driveway," said Chartiers Township resident Matt Muniz. 

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