Flooding in DuBois called 'a nightmare'

It was gone almost as quickly as it arrived, but a storm Thursday closed virtually all access to DuBois and left storefronts and houses under water, launching an expansive rescue effort and prompting the region to declare disaster emergencies.

"Our whole downtown is flooded," said Billie Suplizio, a 35-year-old resident of the small Clearfield County city, who spent much of Thursday without power and scrambled to bail enough of the 2 to 3 feet of water in her basement to avoid damage to her furnace and hot water heater.

"It's going to be weeks cleaning up from the damage that it's caused," she said.

The first warning came about 10:30 a.m. from the National Weather Service -- and then the rain started to fall.

And fall.

And fall.

Clearfield and Jefferson counties declared disaster emergencies after about 6 inches fell by 3 p.m., leaving up to 4 feet of water on some streets and forcing dozens to take refuge at Red Cross shelters.

"We don't see incidents like this on a regular basis," said Jason Bange, executive director of the Red Cross serving Clearfield and Jefferson counties. "People are frustrated that they're out of their homes. We don't have a lot of information about when they'll be able to get back in."

Boat teams from surrounding areas have responded to the several square miles that have flooded, with about 600 workers aiding in the effort, said Joseph Bigar, Clearfield County Department of Emergency Management coordinator. Some roads won't reopen until the state can inspect bridges, Mr. Bigar said.

No flood-related deaths had been reported, and figures on injuries were not yet available Thursday, Mr. Bigar said. Teams to assess damage cannot begin working until the flooding has dissipated, he said.

Although the storm lasted only a few hours, the volume of rain quickly overwhelmed many of the natural safeguards against flooding.

"It's fairly uncommon to see that kind of rain. A lot of it came in just an hour or two," said Craig Evanego, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in State College, adding that an area of low pressure met with a moisture-filled atmosphere to create an unusual amount of precipitation.

Because of the volume of rain that fell in such a short period, the ground could not absorb much of the water, Mr. Evanego said.

But the most important factor in creating flash-flood conditions was streams that overflowed their banks in DuBois and nearby Sykesville and Reynoldsville, he said.

He said conditions were expected to improve Thursday night. And though there is a chance of scattered showers through this morning in the area, they are not likely to significantly increase the level of flooding.

For Mary Snyder, a lifelong DuBois resident, Thursday wasn't the first time she's seen the waters rise. It wasn't even the second.

Having experienced a flood each in the '70s and '80s, Ms. Snyder said this wasn't the worst, but it was the fastest she's seen a torrential storm turn into a debilitating flood.

"There's only one word to describe it, and that's: wow," she said. "Mother Nature is going to have her way."

Ms. Snyder's five-minute commute home turned into an hour and 15 minutes with roads blocked by water and gridlocked traffic. But her home, situated on a hill, avoided any damage.

"The whole town's basically shut down," said Bob Royer, a longtime resident of DuBois and owner of Fox's Pizza Den on East DuBois Avenue. "It's a nightmare, there's flooding everywhere."

weather - mobilehome - breaking - state

Staff writer Molly Born contributed. First Published June 27, 2013 7:15 PM


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