Luzerne County EMA warns of potential creek flooding, high winds

Luzerne County’s Emergency Management Agency has notified all local EMA coordinators about possible weather-related problems they may encounter Tuesday due to rapid rainfall and snow melt and high winds, said county EMA Deputy Director David Elmore.

In addition to the potential flooding of small tributaries and creeks, Elmore said he is concerned about forecasted wind gusts of 45 to 55 mph.

“We reminded them of the potential for power outages and fallen trees,” Elmore said.

While local municipalities and fire companies handle response to such emergencies in their jurisdictions, they were instructed to report any unmet needs to the county so EMA can provide assistance, he said.

A flood watch is in effect from 1 p.m. Tuesday until 1 p.m. Wednesday for the county, according to the National Weather Service. A wind advisory runs from 3 p.m. Tuesday until 4 a.m. Wednesday.

The Susquehanna River is not projected to come close to the level warranting full activation of the Wyoming Valley Levee system, said county Flood Protection Authority Executive Director Christopher Belleman

The latest hydrograph indicates the river will rise to approximately 22 feet on Thursday morning due to rain and melting snow, he said.

For context, the river forecast would have to be above 30 feet to start preparing the Market Street Bridge flood gates, he said.

“We’ll continue to monitor the situation. If things change we’ll adjust our actions,” Belleman said.

On Monday afternoon, the Susquehanna was about 5 feet, which means it is expected to rise 17 feet in two days, he noted.

As the authority did during heavy rain last month, flood gates will be installed Tuesday at the pedestrian opening in the flood wall along Riverside Drive in South Wilkes-Barre, he said.

Gates are still up from last month at two portal openings along the River Common, he said.

All 13 levee pump stations will be activated, Belleman said. These stations have deep water wells to collect drainage from the land side of the levee when it can no longer naturally feed into the Susquehanna. The pumps lift the collected water up over the levee wall and dump it onto concrete aprons into the Susquehanna.

In addition, sluice gates will be closed to stop rising river water from backing up into nearby properties, he said.

“If the river behaves, that’s all we have to do,” Belleman said. “It’s a very busy weather pattern right now, and hopefully things will all stay as forecasted.”

Closing of the pedestrian gate and portals are meant as a safety measure to discourage the public from going near the water’s edge, Belleman said. The December storm left mud and tree damage on the river side of the River Common recreational area in Wilkes-Barre, which is why the portals remained blocked, he said.

County Acting 911 Executive Director Lucy Morgan said county EMA is closely monitoring the weather and will participate in an online webinar with the National Weather Service on Tuesday afternoon.

Another rain storm is predicted Friday into Saturday, she said.

“We will keep communicating information as it is available,” said Morgan.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.


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