New Castle News

July 12, 2013

Photos, Story: County cleans up from ‘worst storm in years’

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Calling it the worst storm in years, Mike Rooney said the South Side suffered the most damage from Wednesday’s rain.

Rooney, the New Castle public works director, said 10 city streets were closed that night and some remained closed Thursday.

“These were streets closed due to the condition of the road,” he said Thursday morning.

Severe flooding caused gravel to wash out, chunks of asphalt to lift and wash away and manhole covers to pop — creating dangerous situations for motorists.

The rain came hard and fast — about four inches between 4:30 and 6 p.m., according to the Pennsylvania-American Water Co.

Rooney said Uber Street, from Pollock Avenue to the top of the hill at Cunningham Avenue, and Hamilton Street from Denver to Pennsylvania Avenue, reopened Thursday morning.

Still closed Thursday night were Carl Street, Lyndal Street from Hamilton to Grimes streets, Pearson Mill Road behind Flaherty Field, Lorraine Street Extension, Marion Court, Lutton Street from Cunningham Avenue to East Washington Street, Mill Street from Grove to Mechanic Street and part of Dewey Avenue. A sink hole —10 feet wide, 7 feet deep and 25 feet long — opened in the 1100 block.

Sinkholes also opened at the dead end of Warren Avenue, which washed out, and at 720 Court Street, Rooney said.

“More roads were closed due to downed trees,” he said, citing Rural, Arlington and Boyles avenues and Graceland Road.

Rooney added he is appreciative the Jersey barriers, intended to close downtown streets for the fireworks festival Saturday, had been delivered by the county.

“We used them to close dangerous streets.”

“This was the worst storm we’ve had in years,” he said noting his crew was called out at 5 p.m. and remained until midnight.

The street sweeper, brought out at 6 p.m. to clear debris, remained until noon. Trucks and front-end loaders also scooped up gravel and debris through the night.

In some areas, Rooney noted, his crews lifted manhole covers to allow water to recede quicker.

“They popped themselves on East Washington at Countyline and Junior High streets.”

Rooney added the city’s storm water lines are 100 years old or more, and too small to handle the amount of water.

He commended his crew — Sean Foley, Richard Zacharewski, Spencer Lane, Travis Rogan, Faye McLafferty, Pete Searcy and Anthony Laurenza — saying “they don’t get enough recognition for what they do.”

The storm brought Steve Caldararo, owner of Nick’s Auto Body, his own set of problems.

It blew down a wall at his Mill Street business, crushing Mike Fishel’s recently repaired pickup truck.

The rain fell so hard and fast that Mill Street flooded, delaying his workers’ quitting time for an hour and a half.

On the Lower East Side, the courthouse suffered water damage, according to Lawrence County Commissioner Dan Vogler.

He said the boiler room, which houses the heating and cooling systems, and a storage room, holding election supplies, flooded.

Vogler said the flooding requires that filters from the cooling system be cleaned.

“Otherwise, it hasn’t curtailed our operations or offices.”

Brian Melcer, the county’s public safety director, said water may be responsible for damage to a house on Fourth Street in Taylor Township where a basement wall collapsed.

He added two homes in South New Castle Borough may have sustained the same damage.


In Shenango Township, people were evacuated from Kerr Trailer Park on Route 422.

Chief David Rishel of the Shenango Township Volunteer Fire Department said residents had to be removed as the water from Big Run rose.

“There is a recurring problem with flooding at the park,” he said.

“About three hours before the storm, residents were advised to leave.”

Many did, he noted, and the American Red Cross put up some families at the nearby Super 8 for the night.

Rishel said he drove one of the fire department’s pickup trucks into the park to evacuate two residents in wheelchairs.

“The water was so high that when I opened the door water came into the cab of the truck.”

Rishel said the people were loaded onto the tailgate and he backed out. He said he knew others remained in the park, but by then the water was too high, too fast and there was too much floating debris to drive through.

Debris included floating propane tanks and chunks of wood, one a 10-foot-square sheet.

Rishel contacted the Neshannock Township Volunteer Fire Department’s Swift Water Rescue Team.

“They came in their boats, did a house-to-house inventory. Some people were still there and wouldn’t leave.”

Rishel said the fire department checked on the residents after the water receded.

“The water comes up and recedes so fast in that area, I’m afraid that one day there will be severe consequences because some people there refuse to leave,” he said.

“Some people just don’t understand the danger they put themselves in and the damage fast-moving water can do.

In addition, the department was called to a motor vehicle fire, accident and commercial structure fire during the flooding.

“They turned out not to be what we thought,” Rishel said.

The accident was actually a vehicle from Martin’s Motors on Union Valley Road that had washed out from the car lot and lodged under a bridge. The fire was the result of smoke, generated by a wood burner. Because of the rain, the smoke didn’t rise but appeared to accumulate on the roof of a building on New Butler Road.

Some township roads were closed because of flooding, washouts or downed trees. Those included Gardner Center and Gardner Stop roads, Savannah-Gardner Road at Reno Lane, Union Valley Road at Old Pittsburgh Road, and Savannah Road at Fields Drive and at Pennsylvania Avenue.

Reopened Thursday morning were Old Pittsburgh Road, reduced to one-lane at the elementary school because of low-hanging power lines and Daugherty Road, closed because of high water from Big Run.

Rishel said the fire department was called to pump water from basements of 12 township residents. Most calls came from the Ridgewood Court area off Savannah Road, and two on Harmony-Baptist Road.

He said the department was able to borrow portable pumps from Neshannock and North Beaver fire departments, areas not hit by severe flooding.

“We are fortunate we were able to share equipment,” Rishel said.

“We’re also fortunate we had limited power outages. Without electricity, there would have been more flooding in basements.

“We were able to do everything in an orderly manner and no one was hurt,” Rishel said. “That’s the most important thing.”



Paul Henry, township supervisor and chief of the volunteer fire department, said North Beaver “fared pretty well.”

“When that tornado hit ... I was afraid we were going to get slammed. But we were lucky. Taylor and Shenango townships got hit a lot worse than we did.”

By noon Thursday, Henry noted, “We had the township put pretty much back together.”

A tornado that touched down demolished a barn and machinery shed on Ryan Werner’s farm on Route 168.

By chance, Henry said, both buildings were virtually empty Thursday.

“They had some straw and hay stored in the barn, but not much,” Henry said.

He added a modular home on Halltown Road suffered roof damage and windows blew out, but no one was hurt.

Trees and wires were down throughout the township, he noted, but only Covert Road was closed Wednesday night.

That was done because trees and power lines were down, Henry said, not because of flooding.


Ellwood City Mayor Anthony Court said his municipality was fortunate.

While wind and rain hit the borough, “we had only limited damage.

“No significant storm damage was reported. We had no power outages and no serious wind damage or flooding.”