Heavy rains cause flooding, prompt water rescues

Listen 1:45

Overnight rains triggered flash flooding in parts of central and eastern Pennsylvania on Monday, closing down a heavily traveled interstate and sending water into homes and businesses.

State highway and emergency management officials reported numerous closed roads in a wide swath of the state from Williamsport to the Philadelphia suburbs, and some motorists had to be rescued.

Hazel Coles said water rose so quickly at her home in Darby, outside Philadelphia, that she had to evacuate through a window. She said there was about 3 feet of water on her street, and some people had to be evacuated by boat. She said the Red Cross was helping displaced residents.

“It’s just crazy,” she said. “I thank God it wasn’t worse.”Upper Darby police reported officers “actively rescuing people trapped in their cars due to flooding.”

The areas around Grace and Marshall Roads experienced the most serious flooding, with water high enough to swim in, said Mayor Tom Micozzie.

There were no fatalities, but one officer fell down a manhole while a rescuing a woman  from the roof of her car.

Several businesses sustained significant water damage.

At George’s Water Ice, located at the bottom of a hill likened to a bowl, the shop floor was inundated with more than two feet of water, which caused a refrigerator to flip over, ruining food supplies. Even a snake found its way into the shop in the flood waters.

“It’s been quite a disturbing situation,” said Da-Costa Vroom, the store manager, who estimated it wouldn’t reopen for weeks.

Across the street from George’s Water Ice, an Autozone was flooded with close to a foot of water.

The flooding started around 10 a.m. and by 1 p.m., roads were clear for traffic.

Whenever there is heavy rain to the north of Upper Darby, said Micozzie, the low-lying area is often flooded due to an overburdened drainage system underground.

Trash bags set out instead of trash cans during trash day complicates this, as they can get washed away by flood waters with other debris into the township’s culverts and drains, clogging them.

In Montgomery County, officials had to rescue 39 people who were stranded in their cars when flooding suddenly overtook the roadways in Upper Merion, especially around King of Prussia, according to John Corcoran, the county’s deputy director of public affairs.

The downpours led to more than 50 vehicle accidents, with 10 people reporting injuries, Corcoran said.

“The flood waters rose really fast. And some people drove into waters they shouldn’t have,” Corcoran said. “But I think a lot of people were just stuck in traffic and the water just rose up.”

Authorities used boats to save people, some sitting on the roofs of their cars, after their vehicles became inundated with water.

There were no reported injuries or fatalities.

The flooding has since subsided, Corcoran said, yet emergency responders remain on high alert.

“There’s still the potential for flooding later in the day,” Cocoran said. “But that flash flooding that occurred, those waters have receded.”

According to Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management, the city towed five waterlogged cars, including some on Martin Luther King Drive and in the city’s Brewerytown neighborhood.

The Schuylkill Expressway was closed in both directions at the busy King of Prussia Mall exit. The waters affected dozens of stores and a parking garage at the mall.

The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, and Lehigh Counties until 6:30 p.m. Flood warnings have also been issued for New Castle County in Delaware, as well as Camden and Burlington Counties in South Jersey until 6:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service urged people not to drive through flooded roads.

Gov. Tom Wolf says the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is working with county and local emergency management to ensure residents are safely evacuated and get help.

The forecast calls for storms to continue and cause flooding in the eastern part of the state through Wednesday.

WHYY reporters Darryl Murphy, Bobby Allyn, Catalina Jaramillo contributed reporting. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal