Storm runoff and debris cover the roadway along U.S. Route 11 in Plymouth Township Sunday evening.BILL TARUTIS/for the times leader
Fast-running, dirty water washes across U.S. Route 11 in Plymouth Township Sunday evening.BILL TARUTIS/for the times leader
Water that pours down Coal Street in Plymouth piles up trees, brush and other debris on Sunday.Photo submitted by Michael Stanitis
Boulders are piled up in a creek channel in Plymouth Township on Sunday, diverting runoff onto U.S. Route 11.BILL TARUTIS/for the times leader
PLYMOUTH TWP. – Hillside runoffs from heavy rains Sunday inundated sections of U.S. Route 11, scattering rocks and debris across the roadway and temporarily stranding motorists as the busy thoroughfare on the West Side shut down.
Late afternoon and early evening downpours also pushed some creeks and streams over their banks and storms felled trees and downed wires elsewhere throughout the region.
Two of the hardest hit areas were Coal Street in Plymouth the Avondale section of the Plymouth Township.
“It just rained like it was the end of the world,” said Dan Gadomski as he watched his father, also named Dan, clear rocks and dirt from the roadway with a backhoe on Route 11 in Plymouth Township.
Mitch Gilt, a hydro meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Binghamton, said between 3 inches and 4 1/4 inches of rain fell in a three-hour period. “Roughly 2 inches of that fell in about one hour,” he said.
The area affected the most stretched from Shavertown in the Back Mountain, down across Plymouth in the Wyoming Valley and up to Glen Summit in Mountain Top, said Gilt.
The Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency set up its emergency operations center Sunday night, and representatives were out assessing damage in the affected areas.
Between 100 and 150 homes sustained damage, ranging from minor to major, in Plymouth. Areas along Coal and Poplar streets were hit hard. Mayor Dorothy Petrosky declared a state of emergency in the borough.
Flooding also was reported along Chase Road in Jackson Township, as well as Route 29.
The rain had stopped around 8:30 p.m. when the older Gadomski started up the machine and began to move the debris with the bucket scraping the pavement. His plan was to make a barrier to divert the water from where it flowing toward houses and buildings including Gadomski’s garage which at one time was the township’s fire department.
“We lost probably $30,000 of equipment,” said the son.
Flooding from the Susquehanna River used to be the biggest water woe of residents in the low-lying area. But recently the trouble has been coming from the high ground.
“I used to have to worry about the Susquehanna flooding. Now I have to worry about the mountain flooding,” said Bill Gensel, who uses a wheelchair to get around.
The runoff from an unfinished mine reclamation project on the Sickler Hill section of the township rushed through a concrete channel down the hillside on the other side of the road from Gensel’s house. The force of the water caused rocks and dirt to pile up at the entrance to pipe under the roadway and it spilled onto the roadway.
“This was never like this,” said Gensel’s son Bill.
The pipe had blocked up before due to runoff and PennDOT spent nearly 20 days clearing it, said Gensel’s son. But crews were only able to clear a passage of less than a foot through the pipe, he said.
Henry Swelgin watched the muddy water flow past the entrance to his automotive garage.
“I’m here 50 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Swelgin.
He pinned the cause to the mine reclamation project. “That used to take all the water. They filled it up now that water has to go somewhere,” he said.
Suzanne Kruczek of Nanticoke was in one of the five vehicles caught in the flooding. She, her boyfriend, Brian Fullerton, of Nanticoke, and her granddaughter were returning from the Dairy Queen in Kingston when the roadway became impassable.
“We have to get out of here,” Kruczek said she told another motorist, and they sought higher ground. “We backed up into a driveway,” she said.
She waited for the rain to stop and the running water to slow down before taking her Volvo SUV back onto the roadway.
Steve and Bev Williams of Castle Rock, Colo., also had to wait with their dog.
Steve Williams said got off Interstate 81 in Berwick and were traveling north on Route 11 en route to the Back Mountain for two weeks to attend his wife’s family reunion.
“My wife’s little trip down memory lane is just going to take a little longer,” he said.
Rain also flooded a section of the Sans Souci Parkway in Hanover Township, stranding some cars.