State College Borough Council updated on ‘epic’ storm damage

mcarroll@centredaily.comJuly 2, 2013 

— Borough Public Works Director Mark Whitfield had one word Monday night for storms that flooded much of the region last week — “epic.”

Whitfield updated Borough Council at its regular meeting about damage caused by the storms, including the collapse of a retaining wall on Memorial Field that has shut down part of Fraser Street.

“1996 was the last time we had anything similar to this,” Whitfield said. “On that date we had 31/4 inches of rain in about 90 minutes. In comparison, we had 3.17 inches of rain in four hours in this event.”

Flooding inundated Atherton Street, Westerly Parkway and other roads in the area. Rushing waters led to evacuations of homes in the Centre Region and to the death of an 86-year-old Beech Creek man who was swept into Little Sugar Run.

In State College, the Memorial Field retaining wall is the most visible lasting damage.

Whitfield noted that the wall was set for removal, but not this quickly. It was weakened because the steel bleachers at the site, which acted as a support for the wall, had been removed as part of ongoing work there.

“What was holding the wall back was no longer there,” he said. “When the rains came, the pressure was to the extent that it pushed and collapsed the wall along Fraser Street.”

If any more of the roadway collapses, it would take the damage almost to the center of the street, he said. The roadway has been closed and part of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts will be moved as a result.

Whitfield said the Calder Way storm sewer system also sustained damage in several places.

“Because of the size of the storm and the amount of water, the pipe actually became pressurized and any weak area within the pipe ... showed itself fairly quickly,” Whitfield said.

He said most of the flooding on State College streets subsided fairly quickly.

A sinkhole on Windsor Court near the State College Area High School soccer field subsided further, but no other sinkholes in the area appear to have been affected, Whitfield said.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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