Cumberland County issued a disaster emergency declaration Wednesday afternoon as the area anticipates continued effects from Tropical Depression Ida, including heavy rains lasting into Wednesday night.
Flash flood warnings from the National Weather Service were in effect Wednesday as federal and state emergency authorities expected conditions to persist into the early hours of Thursday morning.
The county courthouse and offices closed at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, and the county commissioners authorized the Cumberland County Department of Public Safety to execute any necessary measures to deal with the storm.
Gov. Tom Wolf also issued a statewide emergency proclamation, including the use of Pennsylvania National Guard troops to operate water rescue vehicles and helicopters.
“Please, if you can stay home today, please stay home,” Wolf said at a news conference from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Harrisburg. He warned that urban, river and flash flooding were expected through Thursday.
“The best thing all of us can do right now is to stay home and stay safe,” Wolf said.
Nearly all of the county’s schools districts, as well as most private schools in the area, were closed or dismissed students early on Wednesday.
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NWS and U.S. Geological Survey data for the Harrisburg rain gauge reported 4.7 inches of rainfall from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, with another 1 to 2 inches possible Wednesday night. Eric Finkenbinder of ABC27 Weather tweeted at 8:31 p.m. "Today's rain now ranks as the 3rd wettest day on record for the Harrisburg area."
At 7:15 p.m., Shermans Creek at Shermans Dale was at 9.76 feet, putting it in minor flood stage. As of 8 p.m., the Yellow Breeches at Camp Hill has risen to 8.21 feet which puts it into minor flood stage as well. At 7:30 p.m., the Conodoguinet at Hogestown is in flood action stage at 6.57 feet.
In a tweet posted at about 7:30 p.m., State Police said residents of Williams Grove trailer park were being evacuated to the Monroe Fire Company and were being told not to leave their pets behind.
Local municipalities said they were monitoring common flood points along roads in the county.
“We’re going to be keeping an eye on them throughout the evening and if things get hairy, they’ll close the road,” said South Middleton Township Manager Cory Adams.
Common problem points in the township include Ladnor Lane, running between the Holly Pike and Zion Road, as well as the intersection of Petersburg and Lerew roads, Adams said, due to their proximity to the Yellow Breeches Creek and its tributaries as well as farmland with limited drainage.
“There’s just nowhere for the water to go,” Adams said.
In Carlisle, Borough Manager Susan Armstrong reported that borough crews “periodically closed streets down to allow the water ample time to recede and then reopen streets when appropriate.”
Problem areas include Walnut Bottom Road at South West Street, according to the borough, as well as the intersections of Clay and North Hanover streets; West South and Hanover; East South and Bedford; and South Spring Garden and High.
Mechanicsburg Borough Manager Roger Ciecierski reported that rains had washed out the trench for a recently installed gas line at Apple Drive and Allendale Road, temporarily closing the intersection.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Ciecierski said no major flooding had been reported, likely due to the heavy but steady rain that has thus far not had any sudden, torrential downpours.
“Fortunately it’s giving it a chance to get into the ground,” Ciecierski said, but if rains become heavier, “the water can’t get into the system fast enough, and the inlets aren’t big enough to let it in.”
Several parts of town simply cannot accommodate storm drains large enough to handle the load, Ciecierski said. Eastern Simpson Street, as well as portions of Market and Norway streets, and Railroad Avenue, are common points of flooding.
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