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Weekend's flooding arrives on anniversary of big hail storm

Published May 29. 2012 05:00PM

May 26 is becoming a date to remember.

Last year, a hail of a storm ripped through Carbon County, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to homes and vehicles; flash flooding; and a large-scale power outage.

This past Saturday, one of the strongest thunderstorm cells in recent years tore through the TIMES NEWS coverage area, dropping nearly six inches of rain in a two-hour period, and causing Memorial Day weekend travel problems, roadways to be damaged, and home basements to be flooded.

Valerie Meola, metrologist with the National Weather Service, said there are unofficial reports of five to six inches of rain falling in the Summit Hill and Lansford area on Saturday afternoon.

According to Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, who was stationed at the EMA building in Nesquehoning during the storm, a lot of things happened rapidly because of the storm.

"That's what we call flash flooding," Nalesnik said of the localized flooding throughout portions of the county. "It was totally unexpected that we would get that much water in such a short period of time. Fortunately, the water receded quickly."

He noted that many of the emergency services fire and police were called out during the storm to assist with the issues, and commended them for all their efforts.

"The responders did an excellent job at keeping everyone safe," Nalesnik said.

The hardest hit area appeared to be the Panther Valley section of the county.

In Summit Hill, Route 902 between Summit Hill and the White Bear section of the borough was shut down for two and a half hours because of debris and rock being pushed into the roadway by strong water runoff.

Summit Hill Police Chief Joseph Fittos said the highway was "like a river," as the water rushed from the top of the mountain down the road.

PennDOT crews were called to the scene to remove the debris before the road was reopened.

A portion of Oak Street in the borough, near American Legion Post 316, was also shut down because water runoff ripped up portions of the road.

Summit Hill Fire Department volunteers were kept busy Saturday evening with 36 calls for flooded basements, some with as much as three feet of water.

The annual Stay At Home Festival in the borough, which kicks off the Memorial Day weekend was also shut down Saturday due to the heavy rains and damage at the Ginter Field. Volunteers had to rebuild many of the stands that they had set up on Friday evening because the weight of the rain on the tarps ripped down many of the stands. The track area around the field was also a swamp, causing very muddy conditions.

In Lansford, problems to many of the streets occurred.

Lansford police reported that there was some significant damage to some of the streets, with water ripping up portions of the asphalt.

In Nesquehoning, the Wash Shanty Hill portion of Route 209, which connects Nesquehoning and Lansford, was shut down for significant water and debri runoff.

Nalesnik added that Lansford and Nesquehoning Fire Department volunteers were also kept busy with calls for flooded basements.

Other areas around Carbon County were not hit nearly as hard as the slow moving thunderstorms moved through the state.

Meola added official reports state that .53 inches of rain fell at the Lehigh Valley International Airport on Saturday and that another unofficial report states that 2.24 inches of rain fell outside of Lehighton.

Franklin Township, Palmerton and Weatherly police departments reported that no significant problems occurred this past weekend as a result of the heavy rain.

Residents will not get a break today as a Bermuda high brings another hot and humid day, with temperatures reaching into the high 80s and a chance of thunderstorms.

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