Tolson: ‘Pure elation’ when streets opened back up

When Mayor Michael Nutter, Gov. Tom Corbett, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison and Managing Director Richard Negrin arrived at the Midvale Avenue Sunoco lot, nobody knew whether a submerged Kelly Drive would be open for the morning commute. The same went for Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. drives, Main Street, Gypsy Lane and other roadways affected by Hurricane Irene flooding.

Yet, there they all were this morning, muddied but open for rush-hour traffic. Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson explained this afternoon that once the waters receded around 8 p.m., an estimated 230 workers from Parks and Recreation, Water and Streets department got to work clearing fallen trees, opening inlets, sweeping debris and performing other necessary tasks.

“They were even finding fish, I heard about a two-foot catfish they found on Ridge [near Lincoln], and throwing them back into the water,” Tolson said.

Besides that fish’s loved ones, commuters likely ended up appreciating their efforts. Tolson said King and Lincoln were declared passable around 5 a.m. while Kelly followed suit an hour and a half later.

Pre-planning was made difficult by the fickle nature of a storm’s timing, but Tolson noted that the Water Department pre-emptively opened about 400 inlets from Wednesday to Friday, “silent heroes” because of what was avoided by lessening the flood’s impact.

“They worked through the night,” Tolson said. When the efforts were complete, there was “pure elation. The mayor issued us a challenge to do the best we could to get it done by rush hour.”

That challenge was met, and is surely to be mentioned when Nutter hosts his 2 p.m. press conference about the hurricane’s impact and ongoing clean-up efforts.

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