Up to four inches of rain last week led to flooding of the Lehigh Canal, the Lehigh River, and the washing away of sections of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Trail.
The U.S. Geological station at Lehighton reported that the Lehigh River crested at nearly 25,000 cubic feet per second in the early morning hours of Friday, March 11. The Lehigh River begins overflowing its banks at approximately 15,000 cfs. The river's flow exceeded that rate for about 12 hours, from late Thursday night to midday on Friday.
To minimize the flooding, discharges from the Frances E. Walter Dam were suspended from the afternoon of Wednesday, March 9 until the late morning of Saturday, March 12, at which time the gates were opened to release about 8,000 cfs. into the river.
Prior to the heavy rains, the F.E.W. Dam had stored water to its pre-whitewater recreational release level and elevation of 1,370 feet above sea level, which is 70 feet above its baseline of 1,300 feet. In the late morning of March 12, the level peaked at about 1,417 feet, which was close to an overflow-to-spillway condition.
According to Paul Fogal, an owner of Pocono Whitewater, a group of three rafts with guides attempted to brave the high water. All the rafts flipped during the high-adrenaline rush through the Lehigh Gorge.
According to Dennis Scholl, outreach coordinator for the D&L Trail, "Damage from the past weekend's flooding along the Lehigh and Delaware rivers is extensive, much more so on the Lehigh than the Delaware."
Scholl has requested anyone that has information including GPS readings, locations, descriptions and photographs of damage to the D&L Trail to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One area that received damage is the section of the D&L Trail above Lock No. 7 in Weissport. Crews from the Lehighton Water Authority were out on Monday hauling fill to washed-out portions of the trail.
According to Scholl, some of the most damaged sections were in Freemansburg and Bethlehem Township, where "Travel at Your Own Risk," signs have been posted.