Storm causes flooding, road closures; funnel cloud reported in Boalsburg

mcarroll@centredaily.comJune 28, 2013 

A second day of strong thunderstorms caused flash flooding throughout Centre County on Thursday, inundating roadways with inches of water and leading to the evacuation of a home and several apartments in the Centre Region.

Shawn Kauffman, Centre Region Emergency Management Agency coordinator, said a home on West Pine Grove Road outside of Pine Grove Mills partially collapsed Thursday when flooding damaged the structure’s foundation. Residents were home at the time, but escaped with minor injuries.

On Westerly Parkway in State College, eight apartments in the Marvin Gardens apartment building had to be evacuated after filling with several feet of water. Kauffman said the building’s owner arranged other shelter for residents.

Portions of Atherton Street, West College Avenue, Westerly Parkway and West Whitehall Road were covered in inches of runoff. Floodwaters ran down sidewalks and pooled in yards.

It was a common scene throughout much of Centre County. Spring Creek had breached its banks in Houserville, closing a portion of Puddintown Road.

“It’s probably the worst flooding I’ve seen here in the last decade in terms of roadway flooding,” Kauffman said.

Kauffman said Dumpsters were seen floating down the street in the alley behind Alpha Fire Company in downtown State College.

A funnel cloud was reported in Boalsburg at about 5 p.m.; however, according to meteorologist Steve Travis at AccuWeather, a tornado did not touch the ground.

“I’ve seen video and pictures, but as far as I can tell, and, again that won’t be determined until we see damage reports, but in anything I have seen, there was not a tornado on the ground,” he said.

“There was some rotation in the clouds in Boalsburg heading out to Pine Grove Mills, but I haven’t seen anything yet to say a tornado has touched the ground.”

The storm was part of a larger system that has been hanging around much of the Northeast — and will continue to do so —for the next several days.

“It’s a really pesky midlevel feature that’s pushing through very slowly,” Travis said. “Locally, we’ve had reports of over 2 inches in 24 hours, and locally, perhaps an amount of 3 inches or maybe more.”

Additional flooding is possible due to those storms, forecasters said.

According to the National Weather Service in State College, Spring Creek at Houserville was at near flood stage at 9 p.m., while Bald Eagle Creek at Beech Creek was at moderate flood stage.

Craig Evanego, a NWS meteorologist, confirmed some local creeks had come out of their banks by Thursday night. But while additional showers were in the forecast, he predicted streams would not rise much more overnight and would start receding sometime Friday.

In DuBois, Clearfield County, homes and businesses were under water and roads completely flooded.

“The town’s almost isolated,” Travis said.

Centre County EMA Coordinator Randy Rockey said flood damage also occurred outside the Centre Region, with reports of roads closed coming from Howard, Marion Township and elsewhere.

Haas McMullin, who lives on Market Street in Milesburg, said his basement was completely flooded, as was his backyard.

“Until the floodwater goes down, I won’t be able to tell if my well is contaminated,” he said.

McMullin said the water began pouring into his basement at 4:30 p.m. and was still running into the basement more than an hour later.

“I live alone, and I’m handicapped,” he said. “I’ve been here for 30 years. There’s water everywhere.”

Penn State student Ryan Cusack was using a plastic Solo cup to scoop inches of water from his car. Cusack found his vehicle, parked in H Alley, sitting in knee-high water. He recruited several friends to help push the car to safety and began the process of drying it out.

The rest of the region hopes it will have a chance to do the same, but with more storms in the forecast in the coming days that might be difficult.

The bad news, though, is that with the weather pattern hanging around, there is a potential for more flooding.

“Flooding is possible over the next few days,” Travis said. “The ground can’t handle it. I’m not concerned about major flooding — DuBois was very isolated — but I am worried about urban and street flooding.

“We’re in a dangerous spot for the next couple of days.”

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter. Christopher Passante, Abby Drey and Christopher Weddle contributed to this report.

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