Corbett raises Pa. emergency level to most dire

    Gov. Tom Corbett has raised Pennsylvania’s emergency alert to the highest possible level.

    The state wasn’t at a Level 1 emergency during Hurricane Irene more than a week ago, but Corbett said “all hands on-deck” are needed to respond to statewide damage after torrential rainfall and subsequent flooding in central and northeastern Pennsylvania.

    Among the hardest-hit areas is Derry Township, Dauphin County.

    Corbett said the Swatara Creek has risen to four times its flood level:

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    “Some of the flood gauges that we use out there cannot give us reliable data because they are so far under water,” he said Thursday afternoon.

    Earlier Thursday, Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson ordered thousands of residents to leave their Harrisburg area homes

    Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he intends to write to President Barack Obama asking him to include the latest flooding in the Hurricane Irene disaster declaration.

    “So people who are harmed by this latest water do not have to go though a whole other process but they can be folded into whatever happened to them during Irene,” Christie said Thursday. “If they weren’t affected by Irene they can be folded into the whole Irene process that is now being set up.”

    Back  in Pennsylvania, a Red Cross shelter in Harrisburg is open for evacuees from Dauphin County, where southern communities have seen the worst flooding.

    Jennifer Hetes and her husband arrived the shelter after their street in Lower Swatara Township was evacuated by the fire department.

    Hetes said the flooding still hasn’t subsided in her neighborhood.

    “We were actually out there today, I actually swam out to get belongings,” she said. “There was a baby that needed clothing, and the water was over my head. And I’m 5-9.”

    A spokesman for the capital region Red Cross says the shelter has cots for about 100 evacuees, and can bring more in if necessary.

    Corbett is urging those in flooded areas to stay out of the water, which he says is toxic.

    More than 1,200 Pennsylvania National Guard members are serving to respond to the floods.

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