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Overwhelmed with flood waters

  • ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Fast moving surface water washed away soil from underneath a section of railroad track near East Blaine Street and Tresckow Road in McAdoo during Saturday's flash flood.
    ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Fast moving surface water washed away soil from underneath a section of railroad track near East Blaine Street and Tresckow Road in McAdoo during Saturday's flash flood.
Published May 29. 2012 05:00PM

Over 25 blocks of McAdoo sustained flood or storm damage following Saturday's intense rain storm that left South Kennedy Drive (SR309) under almost four and a half feet of water after 10 inches of rain had fallen in less than an hour. McAdoo Mayor Dane Watro and council members signed a Declaration of Disaster while people were being evacuated and after water levels rose to dangerous levels in many low lying parts of McAdoo.

"We had flooding in this area before, but never this bad," said borough councilwoman Marion DeBalko.

Joshua Yelk, 20, and Muguel Collazo, 22, who's vehicle started to float down Blaine Street when they tried to cross through, had to get out of their vehicle to prevent from being swept away. "We had to literally swim in the water to save ourselves and our car." Yelk and Collazo, who also helped others that were stranded, said, "We saw firefighters evacuating people from homes and dive team rescuers carrying people on their backs."

"The amount of surface rain water, which flooded over 35 homes and affected a much higher number of homes and businesses, was way too much to handle in such a short period of time," said Robert Leshko, Assistant Fire Chief, McAdoo Fire Company.

"This is the worste flooding I've ever seen in McAdoo," said, Matt Capulich, Emergency Management Agency (EMA) coordinator for McAdoo, as he compared it to the aftermath of Hurricane Agnes.

Gary Perna, Deputy Coordinator, Kline Township EMA, said that 6 families are displaced, 3 of them being assisted by the Schuylkill/Berks County Red Cross. He added that McAdoo police, McAdoo firefighters and two crews with the Schuylkill Haven Dive Team rescued four people from stranded vehicles, some having water over roofs of the car.

Captain Dan Leshko, McAdoo Fire Company, who rescued a person from a stranded Ford Mustang, stated the fire department's appreciation to all who responded. Leshko's home was also damaged by the flood.

Schuylkill County's Emergency Management Agency Mobile Command Center setup headquarters outside the McAdoo Fire Company.

A resident, who did not identify himself, told emergency responders that sewage was back-flowing out of the shower head and toilet in his bathroom.

Bob Leshko, borough Fire Chief, who coordinated cleanup and hazard mitigation with Capulich from a post on Kennedy Drive between Sherman and Blaine streets, said, "We shut Kennedy Drive down and ordered electricity shut off and families evacuated from homes with severely flooded basements or heating fuel leaks."

Firefighters and other volunteers spent all night and the next day pumping flood water from the basements and first floors of some of the homes.

Firefighters said the pressure of the water blew out windows in the basement of several homes. Firefighters added that they pumped out homes with 8 to 10 feet of water in the basements.

The lower areas, also called "McAdoo's flood zone" by local residents, weren't the only areas affected by surface water. A large section of rock and dirt was unearthed underneath the railroad track located at the far east of McAdoo, near the industrial park.

Watro, who also spent time going from home to home offerins assistance, said, "We would be lost without our dedication fire department."

Watro, resident, firefighters and council members are hoping the Declaration of Disaster will offer further assistance to those affected by the flood.

Responding were firefighters and emergency responders from both McAdoo Fire Company and McAdoo's Keystone Fire Company, as well as the communties of Freeland, Hazle Township, Tresckow, Schuylkill Haven, Hazleton and others.

Vinny Chitswara, McAdoo firefighter and emergency response organizer, said, "Cleanup will be tremendous for all those affected and could take weeks or months to recover completely."

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