2011-09-01 / Local & State

Hurricane Irene Brings Rain, Wind To PA

By Ron Todt and
Michael Rubinkam

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Wielding gusty winds and heavy rain in Pennsylvania, now Tropical Storm Irene generated widespread flooding, toppled trees, cut power to more than half a million homes and businesses, caused four buildings to collapse and prompted water rescues along swollen and bursting creeks and rivers.

By 5 a.m. Sunday, the National Weather Service said that just more than 4.8 inches of rain had fallen on Philadelphia, while nearby King of Prussia had more than 6 inches, waterlogging an already sodden part of the state that is in record territory for rainfall in August.

That total tally could reach as much as 10 inches by the end of the day, however.

Concern about flooding later Sunday and into early next week remained paramount, with warnings that rivers and creeks could swell further, particularly along the Delaware River where it is expected to crest at 32 feet Monday afternoon.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said that the Schuylkill River could reach 15 feet by 8 p.m., it’s second highest in history.

AccuWeather said that the potential for flooding could see all-time records “rivaling stages reorded during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.’’

Flash flood and flood warnings were issued up and down eastern and central Pennsylvania, including Dauphin, Lancaster, Sullivan, Schuylkill, York, Bucks, Montgomery, Lehigh, Northampton, Monroe and Delaware counties, among others.

In South Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, people began evacuating their homes after Solomon Creek spilled over its banks, WNEP-TV reported.

The winds – which ranged just more than 40 mph and higher – were blamed for uprooting trees, knocking down branches and power lines. High wind warnings remained in effect with gusts of up to 60 mph forecast.

PECO said that 297,000 were without power early Sunday in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. PPL said it had 175,000 customers without power while FirstEnergy Corp., owner of Met-Ed and other utilities, reported more than 75,000 outages.

Emergency officials said four buildings collapsed overnight, but all of the occupants had been accounted for, including 20 people from one multi-unit structure. A total of 169 people were in three city shelters along with seven pets.

Travel by road remained limited, if not absent, with many roads blocked by trees and overrun by water.

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