Heavy Rains Pose Flooding Threat Through Evening and Overnight Hours

July 11, 2019

Harrisburg, PA – As slow-moving storms with heavy rains pose a threat for flash flooding during the evening commute and overnight hours, Governor Tom Wolf is asking Pennsylvanians to remain alert and stay informed. The threat will be especially significant in areas that have already received considerable rainfall and experienced flooding earlier today. Damaging wind and large hail are also a threat this evening.

“Numerous water rescues in multiple counties have already been reported to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency,” said Gov. Wolf. “We need everyone to be careful, because flash flooding can occur quickly and can be very difficult to see at night.”

Areas of greatest concern, as identified by the National Weather Service, include the Interstate 79 corridor south of Interstate 376, and counties east of Interstate 81 and south of Interstate 78.

PEMA has increased staffing at the 24-hour Commonwealth Watch and Warning Center. All swiftwater rescue teams in the state have been put on notice to be ready for deployment. In addition, one team from the PA Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (PA-HART) has been placed on ready status in Johnstown. The aircraft are capable of performing hoist rescue operations or moving swiftwater rescue teams to inaccessible areas if needed to support county rescue operations.

“PEMA personnel have been in touch with county emergency management officials in the counties where we have already seen or we expect to see flooding,” said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. “So far, we have received no requests for assistance or been advised of unmet needs but we have notified our state agency partners to be ready if their help is requested.”

Padfield said the following steps are a good start in getting ready for possible flooding:

  • Never walk or drive through flood water;
  • learn the difference between a weather watch and weather warning, since each requires different steps to stay safe:
    • A flood watch means that flooding may occur. Residents should stay alert, closely monitor rivers and streams, and be prepared to move to high ground quickly.
    • A flood warning means that there is actual flooding. Residents should act at once and move to higher ground.
  • get a NOAA weather radio so you’re notified about severe weather and can take appropriate safety steps;
  • sign up to get weather alerts on your cell phone from a trusted source and take the alerts seriously;
  • determine how you would leave your neighborhood if you needed to evacuate your home; and
  • identify where you would meet up with your family (both in your town and an out-of-town location) in the event you were separated when the flooding started.

More information about how to prepare for an emergency, including specific information for people with specialized needs such as pets or access and functional needs, is available on the ReadyPA webpage.

PennDOT warns motorists not to drive across roads covered with water because even shallow, swiftly flowing water can wash a car from a roadway. Also, the roadbed may not be intact under the water. And never drive around barricades or signs on closed roads – Turn Around, Don’t Drown.

Fines for going around a barricade are $250; if emergency responders need to perform a water rescue or have a vehicle towed, the fine increases to $500 plus two points on the driver’s license.

Anyone traveling should closely monitor weather conditions along travel routes.

Motorists can check conditions on major roadways by visiting www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 950 traffic cameras.

511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional Twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.

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