Officials in Burlington, Bucks counties assess storm damage

Known for his criminal justice work in the community, Wayne Jacobs is asking for help.

A Bucks County resident observes the aftermath of flooding at his residence.

A Bucks County resident observes the aftermath of flooding at his residence. (Courtesy of Grant Goodhart)

Updated at 3:17 p.m.

Northwestern Burlington County and Lower Bucks County were recovering Tuesday from flooding that resulted from storms that passed through the region Monday.

Portions of the two counties, which flank the Delaware River north of Philadelphia, were within a zone that saw 6 to 10 inches of rain fall, according to the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly, which estimated the weather event to be “a 100-year flood.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

In Burlington County, the entire Route 130 corridor was included in that zone, from Palmyra to Bordentown.

“We had lots of roads closed during the storm, just because of the intensity of the rain, which caused flash floods,” said Burlington County spokesman David Levinsky. Burlington City, Burlington Township, and Florence received some of the worst of the storm’s impact.

Florence got the most rain with 7.33 inches, according to weather data. In Delanco, the Weather Service received a report of 5.5 inches of rain falling over the course of six hours. There were also reports of wires down along the corridor, including in Cinnaminson and Bordentown.

Levinsky said 12 water rescues occurred in Burlington County, including from some vehicles. That was in addition to more than 400 emergency calls and more than 1,400 non-emergency calls that were mostly for flooded basements and homes. No serious injuries were reported.

The county’s emergency management team is assessing the damage from the storm.

Similar scenarios occurred across the river in Bucks County, where places such as Bensalem and Bristol received as much as 10 inches of rain.

Grant Goodhart’s parents live in Bensalem, and he said the flood happened very quickly, within 40 minutes. His mother was home at the time.

“The dog was splashing around in the water downstairs, she heard that, didn’t think it sounded right, ran downstairs, and just saw water start coming in from just like every opening it could,” Goodhart said. “Within 30 minutes, the entire bottom floor was submerged to the ceiling, and there was two feet … on the second floor.”

He and his parents pumped a lot of the water out, so it receded later that night, Goodhart said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“It looks like a tornado scene or something … everything floated up to the ceiling and then, as the water receded, it landed wherever it landed,” he said. “Everything that is in the downstairs is just destroyed.”

His parents were not injured, but they had to stay in a hotel last night and are not sure where they will stay tonight. They don’t have flood insurance because Bensalem is not in a flood zone, and Goodhart’s sister is crowdfunding to ask for help. He said some houses next to theirs were flooded too.

The Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania helped more than 60 people in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County find temporary housing in hotels last night, said Dave Skutnik, director of communications. He added that the Red Cross is working with emergency management workers to figure out how many people will need housing, food, clothing, and other relief going forward.

“Unfortunately, we’re well versed in this type of flood response here in Southeastern Pennsylvania, it seems to be happening a lot,” Skutnik said, recalling the damage from Tropical Storm Isaias last August.

Bucks County officials said the flooding brought down power lines and flooded roads as well as homes in Bristol and Bensalem. They were out assessing the damage Tuesday morning, along with staff from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. The county got more than 1,000 calls for help Monday from 4 to 8 p.m., almost double the normal rate.

This time, the flooding was localized to lower Bucks County, said Jonathan O’Brien, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J.

“At least from our memories here, we don’t have a recollection of anything quite that bad in that particular area,” he said, adding that the chance of a flood like this happening there in a given year is 1%, which is why this would be a one-in-100-year flood.

“What happened yesterday was certainly an anomaly from a weather perspective,” Skutnik said. “Having said that, we’ve noticed not only here but in many areas around the country, around the world, these sort of events do happen more frequently than they use to. It just comes down to simple physics.”

As climate change leads to higher temperatures, he said, scientists expect to see more heavy rain.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

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