Continued evacuations and flooding kept Philipsburg-Osceola area firefighters busy

Philipsburg-Osceola residents still reeling from flooding effects

Philipsburg-Osceola is still dealing with flooding after heavy rainfall on Monday.
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Philipsburg-Osceola is still dealing with flooding after heavy rainfall on Monday.

Although the sun had finally come back out after three straight days of rain, fire crews in the Philipsburg-Osceola area were still busy Tuesday responding to and cleaning up the effects of the flooding.

John Huber, with Reliance Fire Company, said that since Monday, the Philipsburg fire departments responded to 45 calls for service —including flooded basements, flooded roadways and stranded vehicles.

The Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District canceled school on Tuesday due to the road conditions, and issued a two-hour delay for Wednesday.

In Osceola, where a state of emergency was declared, the Columbia Fire Company pumped water out of 25-30 basements, according to firefighter Trevor Harris. The worst case, Harris said, was a basement with 10 feet of water.

Harris said the calls started at about 11 a.m. Monday, as the Moshannon Creek started spilling water into yards and basements. They first responded to the Newtown area, on Walker Street, then made their way up through town. A few streets up, Logan Street was blocked by water and all residences were flooded. Harris said they closed down the road and evacuated the residents, as Penelec terminated their power. The Curtin Park Court trailer park off of Curtin Street was submerged in water, and residents were also asked to evacuate.

Morgan Reader walks through her flooded front yard in Curtin Park Court on Tuesday after Monday’s heavy rainfall in Osceola Mills. Phoebe Sheehan

The evacuations were voluntary, Harris said, so people didn’t have to leave if they didn’t want to. In total, he said about five-10 people evacuated. The Columbia fire station and the Immaculate Conception church were set up as shelters. Harris said they had a few people sheltering at the fire station Monday, but most people went to stay with family.

The regional American Red Cross came to Osceola to help with evacuations on Monday, then were expected to return Tuesday with cleanup kits. Harris said the cleanup kits — which consist of mops, brooms, a bucket, cleaning materials and instructions on how to get rid of mold — would be distributed door to door to those in the hardest-hit areas, and be available at the fire station.

As of Tuesday afternoon, power was still cut off to Curtin Park, as well as some residences on Walker and Logan streets. Logan Street was also still closed.

Don Cowfer, who lives on Walker Street, said that although his backyard floods about three times a year, this was the closest the water has gotten to his home. He said he started seeing the water creep over the weeds at the edge of his yard Sunday evening, and it got to its worst point around 7 p.m. Monday. He said the water came up about 30-35 yards farther than usual. But, luckily for Cowfer, it stopped right before hitting his swimming pool.

Michael Wayland walks through water on Logan Street on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018 in Osceola Mills. Phoebe Sheehan

Mike Wayland lives on Curtin Street, in the middle of town. His basement got about 3 inches of water before he started pumping it. As his home was spared from most of the damage, Wayland spent the day helping out others who weren’t so fortunate with cleanup.

Although things had calmed down Tuesday for Harris and the Columbia Fire Company, flooded roadways and basements were still keeping Hope, Reliance and Chester Hill fire crews plenty busy in the Philipsburg area.

Huber was helping to pump basements on North 2nd Street in Philipsburg, as water ran down East Alder Street and onto North Centre Street, near Weis Markets. North Centre Street closed in front of the grocery store early Monday, and remained so throughout Tuesday.

Huber said since Monday, Philipsburg firefighters rescued seven stranded motorists — one in front of the Weis and six on Railroad Street. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were lane restrictions on U.S. Route 322 and Railroad Street, and the 9th Street bridge was under water for much of the day, making travel slow through the area. McDonald’s, CVS and several other businesses off 322 were closed.

The worst basement Huber saw had 8 feet of water.

“It blew the guy’s basement door right out,” he said.

Fire companies evacuated 16 people from Chester Hill on Monday, and at least four more were evacuated from the corner of Railroad and Centre streets on Tuesday.

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Although Tuesday did bring a break in the rain, fire crews said they are preparing for things to pick up again as Hurricane Florence is expected to hit the East Coast near the Carolinas on Thursday.

Fortunately for central Pennsylvania, the storm is forecasted to bring just “a little bit of light rain as we head into the weekend,” National Weather Service meteorologist Barry Lambert told the Centre Daily Times.