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Heavy rains drench area

Published September 08. 2011 05:01PM

The remnant of Tropical Storm Lee, which made landfall in Louisiana early this week, is still wreaking havoc across the Northeast as it continues its march northward.

In many areas across Pennsylvania, flooding is a major concern, especially in low-lying areas near rivers.

Heavy rains blanketed the TIMES NEWS area, but as of press time today, no severe flooding was reported.

Throughout Luzerne County, creeks have spilled over their banks, roadways have flooded and people are seeking higher ground as a result of the fast-rising Susquehanna River.

According to the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service website, the Susquehanna River is currently at 29.07 feet, seven feet above flood stage in Wilkes-Barre.

Reports state that the river is expected to continue to rise throughout the day because of heavy rains that are forecast for the Binghamton, N.Y. area today. Experts believe that the river may crest around 39 feet early Friday morning, just two feet below the city's levees.

Mandatory evacuations along the Susquehanna River from Exeter Township to Shickshinny and the surrounding areas are in effect and residents must find shelter in higher areas. Over 65,000 residents are expected to be evacuated by 8 o'clock this evening, WNEP reports.

Shelters have been opened in GAR High School, as well as Luzerne County Community College, the Plymouth Township Municipal Building and State Street Elementary. Other shelters could possibly open today if necessary.

Numerous roads across the state have also been closed as a result of the flooding.

Interstate 80 between the Buckhorn exit (232) and the Lightstreet exit (236) in Columbia County is closed; Interstate 276 between Valley Forge and the Delaware River Bridge has speed restrictions; the Fort Washington Interchange remains closed and the Schuylkill Expressway was shut down in both directions on Wednesday. As of 8:15 a.m. today, one westbound lane was reopened to traffic.

SEPTA transportation in Philadelphia is also affected by the storm.

This storm may rival the disaster that occurred in 1972, when Hurricane Agnes tore through the Northeast. During that storm, the Susquehanna River crested at 40.9 feet in Wilkes-Barre, nearly five feet over the former levee system.

Schools across Luzerne, Schuylkill, Northumberland, Bradford, Columbia, Lycoming and Susquehanna counties are closed today as a result of the storm.

In Carbon County, some flooding has occurred in low-lying areas, such as Lower Towamensing Township, where the Aquashicola Creek poured over its banks and grew from its usual 15-foot width to nearly a half-mile wide; but no major issues have been reported, officials at the communications center said this morning.

The Lehigh River, which snakes through areas such as White Haven, Weissport, Lehighton, Walnutport and Bethlehem, is steadily rising, but does not seem to pose any immediate threat of major flooding due to dam closures at Francis E. Walter and Beltzville dams.

According to the NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, at the Francis E. Walter Dam, the river level is currently 1,392.45 feet, up from 1,360 feet on Tuesday evening.

In Lehighton, the river currently is at 6.79 feet and expected to crest at 9.1 feet, .9 feet below flood stage. It is currently running at 7,640 cubic feet per second, which is significantly up for normal river flow for this time of year.

Near Walnutport, the river was at 6.99 feet this morning, 1.1 foot below flood stage, and is running at 14,000 cfs.

One area of concern that Walnutport residents are monitoring closely is the canal, which late last week, sustained extensive damage to the fall gate at Lock 23 as a result of Hurricane Irene.

Officials for the Walnutport Canal Association said the water level is rising in the canal but everything appears OK at this time.

According to The Associated Press, "much of central and northeastern Pennsylvania was pounded by rain on Wednesday, with final storm totals predicted to be five to 10 inches. Damage included a mudslide in Lancaster County, two zoo animals in Hershey that had to be euthanized after being caught in rising floodwaters," and at least two rain-related deaths in Central Pennsylvania have been reported.

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