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Heavy rains soak area

Published October 01. 2010 05:00PM

Torrential rains and high winds generated by Tropical Storm Nicole pummeled the area on Thursday into Friday, bringing down trees, closing roads and flooding basements.

The downpour started early Thursday morning as the weakening Nicole rolled along the East Coast, from South Carolina to Maine, and continued after a lull into early Friday morning. In Lehighton, 7.96 inches of rain had fallen as of 5 a.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service. In Schuylkill County, about 7.3 inches were reported to have fallen in Mount Pleasant.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Krekeler said the average precipitation for our area is about 30 inches by October.

"We were five or six inches below average for the year, but this storm has brought us back to normal," he said.

And quickly, apparently.

By 2 p.m. Wednesday, 3.63 inches of rain had fallen, according to measurements taken in Lehighton. By 5 a.m. Friday, an additional 4.33 inches had fallen, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning in the early afternoon, but lifted it by 7 p.m. Winds gusted up to about 35 mph. in some areas.

Showers are expected to continue today, with clearing beginning around noon, according to the National Weather Service. Cooler temperatures in the low 60s are expected to arrive into the weekend.

Carbon County Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Nalesnik said he did not receive any reports of injuries caused by the storm.

He notified the Lehighton Area School District in the wee hours of Friday morning that roads were closed in East Penn Township due to flooding. The district delayed the start of classes for two hours.

As of Friday morning, Route 895 between Hollow Road and Berger Creek Road, and Lauchnor Road in East Penn Township were closed when the Lizard Creek overflowed its banks. Country Club Road between Route 443 and Route 902/Mahoning Drive in Mahoning Township remained closed, according to the state Department of Transportation. County Line Road, at the West Penn/Mahoning Township border, was also flooded and remained closed.

Many rural roads were flooded to the point of impassibility as of Thursday night, including the intersection of Ridge Road and Ash Circle, and Municipal Road in West Penn Township.

Fire companies throughout Carbon and Schuylkill counties were busy Friday morning pumping out flooded basements.

A Kidder Township housing development was isolated for a few hours during the storm when a creek flooded a bridge that provides access, Nalesnik said.

"I'm hoping the water is starting to recede," Nalesnik said Friday morning. "We're pretty much finished up except for some trees down."

He said he is standing by and monitoring the situation in case of further problems.

Downed trees and limbs caused problems for hundreds of PPL customers. PPL spokesman Rich Beasley said the outages resulted from "trees contacting our wires and shorting them out or bringing them down. We had outages beginning late yesterday afternoon through the morning hours. Our problem was high wind and trees."

The heavy rains and high winds cut power to hundreds of homes in Franklin Township. As of Friday morning, power had been restored to 436 customers, with only two remaining out of service. In Schuylkill County, the storm knocked out power to residents of Union and Wayne townships. As of Friday morning, power had been restored to 520 customers, with 490 remaining out of service, according to PPL.

Schuylkill County Emergency Management Agency Emergency Management Coordinator John Matz said his county weathered the storm fairly well.

In Schuylkill County, there were some accidents, including one involving a tractor trailer, in the area of I-81 near Route 61, Matz said. He said there were no reported injuries from the storm.

And the Pine Grove School District in Schuylkill County began dismissing classes early Thursday afternoon in anticipation of flooding from the Swatara Creek. The district delayed classes for two hours Friday morning. PennDOT worked to clear roads over night. The borough declared a state of emergency at about 4 p.m., and the Pine Grove High School was set up for emergency shelter.

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