DUBOIS – Severe flooding struck Clearfield and Jefferson counties Thursday, closing numerous roadways, leaving communities under water and prompting officials to issue declarations of disaster emergencies.
The National Weather Service (NWS) forewarned of the storm about mid-morning. The warning cited possibilities of: flash flooding due to excessive rainfall rates; flooding in low-lying areas; and streams rising and overflowing their banks.
Then, the storm erupted with heavy rainfall and swiftly turned roadways into streams. In an emergency announcement shortly after 2:20 p.m. Thursday, Sandy Township police advised all roadways had been closed heading into and out of the township.
“Sandy Township Emergency Management has requested residents to stay at their current location. Rescue crews are responding to calls as quickly as possible, but [they] are stretched very thin,” police said. “. . . Residents are urged to stay in their homes unless there is an immediate danger of flooding.”
The Clearfield and Jefferson County Commissioners declared disaster emergencies due to flood conditions. “The staff of Clearfield County Emergency Management has been on-site in DuBois, Sandy Township and their surrounding areas to assist emergency responders with the coordination of rescue and response operations,” said Commissioner Mark B. McCracken via e-mail Thursday evening.
“Residents are advised to stay out of the areas that are experiencing flooding and should pay close attention to any detour or road closure signs,” said McCracken. “Residents are also advised to only call 911 in the event of a real emergency situation.”
Elyse Colbert, NWS meteorologist, said the northwest corner of Clearfield County, especially in DuBois and the surrounding areas, received the most significant rainfall. She said some communities, such as Troutville, had six inches of rainfall or more.
“We saw pictures of rainfall gauges, and they were full,” she said. She said the NWS received numerous flood reports from the DuBois area for roadways being under water and washed out; first-floor flooding in homes in the low-lying areas, etc.
“The intersection of state Route 219 and U.S. Route 322 there was flooded. At one point, we had reports of 4 feet of water on the roadway by the DuBois Mall. Most of the roadways were closed going in and out of that area,” said Colbert.
During Thursday’s storm, Clearfield County Emergency Management Director Joseph Bigar Jr. said as many as 600 workers responded to the flooded areas in DuBois and Sandy Township. Emergency responders also had assistance from boat teams, the state’s Department of Transportation and other out-of-county resources.
No flood-related fatalities have been reported as of Friday morning. Damage assessment teams are assembling to respond to the DuBois and Sandy Township areas, said Bigar.
Dominique Buccina, communications specialist for the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross, said due to heavy rains, volunteers had mobilized to staff shelters at the DuBois Area High School and the Sigel Community Center. She said as of 10:30 p.m. Thursday, approximately 170 flood victims had sought refuge at the shelters.
Buccina said ARC emergency response vehicles will canvas the affected areas in Jefferson and Clearfield counties to distribute relief supplies, food, snacks, water and support this morning. She said they will work closely with local government officials to address the immediate needs of the affected residents in Jefferson and Clearfield counties.
(All photos by Steven McDole)