Remnants of Ida move across Western Pa., bringing heavy rainfalls, flooding

Areas of flooding are being reported across parts of Western Pennsylvania as remnants of Hurricane Ida continue to move across the region.

Ida, which was downgraded from a tropical depression as it made its way inland, arrived in the region Tuesday night, with some of the heaviest rainfall beginning Wednesday morning. According to National Weather Service Meteorologist Rich Redmond, rain is expected to continue to increase through most of the morning.

“We are expecting that the rainfall will continue to increase … through most of the morning hours so we’re starting to pinpoint this right after sunrise and into late morning as to when we’ll see our heaviest rainfall,” Redmond said.

By 10 a.m., Allegheny, Westmoreland and Fayette counties were under a flash flood warning, according to the National Weather Service. Other parts of the region remain under a flash flood watch with concerns for localized flooding and possible flooding along the rivers.

By 8:45 a.m., about half a foot of rain had fallen in some areas of the region, including around South Fayette, according to WPXI Meteorologist Scott Harbaugh.

New Kensington-Arnold administrators decided around 8 a.m. to send students home from Valley High School as water was rising in Little Pucketa Creek in front of the school. Buses were arriving to take students home around 9 a.m., while those who drove went to their cars.

Assistant Superintendent Jon Banko said students arrived between 7 and 7:15 a.m., after which the creek rose about two feet in about 20 minutes, and was beginning to encroach on the parking lot across the creek from the school.

“It’s up now. It wasn’t in the parking lot this morning,” Banko said.

Administrators were also being sent home, so they do not get stranded. There was concern that debris could dam up at the bridges.

“What we don’t want is people stuck on the other side,” Banko said.

He did not know if students would have to make up the day.

The adjacent Northern Westmoreland Career & Technical Center also sent students home, with all out by around 9:30 a.m. Teachers stayed in the building and students will work remotely. The school serves about 460 students from New Kensington-Arnold, Burrell, Kiski Area, and Franklin-Regional.

Other school districts across the region also canceled classes. Canon-McMillan and West Jefferson Hills closed, officials announced Wednesday morning. Officials at Baldwin-Whitehall also decided to close Wednesday, pushing back the first day of school until Thursday, according to a post on their Facebook page.

Check a list of area school closings and delays from WPXI.

Shaler Area School District closed primary and elementary schools Wednesday morning after flood waters on Seavey Road in Shaler caused a school bus with students on board to get stuck. According to Shaler police, all students who were on the bus were evacuated to a safe area. The road remains closed between Soose Road and Elbe Drive.

Several other roads across the region also began flooding Wednesday morning as rain continued to move through the region.

Shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday, the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department began evacuating residents from Baldwin Street as the McLaughlin Run Creek began overflowing, said Capt. Bob Siegwarth. Siegwarth noted that residents on McLaughlin Run Road will also be evacuated Wednesday morning.

According to a Facebook post from the department, evacuated residents without a place to go should go to the fire department, located at 370 Commercial St.

In Greensburg, Lynch Field Park continued to fill with flood waters Wednesday morning. The field, a natural bowl surrounded by asphalt walking paths, often floods, causing the city to pump the water into Jacks Run. By Wednesday, water flowed onto a parking lot, surrounding the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department’s drill tower.

Flooding, along with downed trees and wires, closed several Allegheny County roads Wednesday morning.

According to PennDOT, closed roads include:

  • Little Pine Creek Road in Shaler between Wetzel and Marzolf roads
  • Piney Fork Road in South Park between Connor and Snowden roads
  • Route 50 from Franklin Avenue in Carnegie to Hope Street in Scott
  • Streets Run Road in Baldwin between Brentwood Road and Pittsburgh
  • Route 48 at the intersection of Rippel Road in White Oak, Route 51 between Bausman and Whited streets in Pittsburgh
  • Freeport Road between Boyd and Clifton avenues in O’Hara
  • Presto Sygan Road between Thoms Run Road in Collier and Newbury Highland in South Fayette
  • Saxonburg Boulevard at the intersection of McClure Road in West Deer

Additional road closures include Cochran Mill Road and Bruceton Road in Jefferson Hills and Magee Road between Blackburn Road and Park View Drive in Sewickley Hills, according to Allegheny County officials.

According to Tribune-Review news partners WPXI-TV, Route 8 is also closed between Negley Run Road and Shetland Avenue. In Pittsburgh, the flood gates have been activated along Washington Boulevard and water is rising along Glass Run Road, according to a tweet from Pittsburgh Public Safety.

As Ida continues to move across the region, area residents are expressing concerns about the possibility of more flooding throughout the day.

Gilpin resident Frank Simon, 70, has lived next to Brady’s Run Creek for more than 40 years.

He was outside Wednesday morning monitoring the creek levels.

“I’m concerned it could go over the banks,” Simon said. “I get up earlier than normal and make sure things aren’t getting out of hand.

Surveying the rapid waters, Simon said he estimated the normally calm and shallow creek to be at more than three-feet deep.

“You’d be in big trouble,” said Simon, referring to the safety concern if someone fell into Brady’s Run under the current conditions caused by Ida. “That is really fast. You’d probably never be able to get your footing.”

In addition to flooding, downed trees and wires are causing power outages across the region. According to West Penn Power, more than 7,241 customers were impacted by power outages shortly after 10 a.m. At that time, Duquesne Light had 41 active outages impacting more than 1,000 customers, according to an outage map.

Ida made landfall along the Gulf Coast early Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane with winds reaching 150 mph. After devastating parts of Louisiana, the system became a tropical storm as it began a northward journey Monday. As Ida reached the border of Kentucky and West Virginia, it was again downgraded to a tropical depression.

According to Redmond, Ida was originally expected to dump heavy rain throughout the region Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. NWS Meteorologist Bill Modzlewski told the Tribune-Review Tuesday night that the leading edge of the system was expected to cross into Pennsylvania between 2 and 3 a.m.

However, drier air that moved into the area from the south through West Virginia “hindered heavier rain from developing,” Redmond said.

Overnight, the region saw between a quarter to three quarters of an inch of rain, he said.

Still, as the system continues to move across Western Pennsylvania, rain totals could reach between 3 and 4 inches in Westmoreland, Fayette and Indiana counties, according to the National Weather Service of Pittsburgh’s Twitter. Between 2 and 3 inches is expected in Allegheny and Washington counties.

As predictions currently stand, several river points in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties could flood in the coming days.

According to Redmond, the Monongahela River at Charleroi could crest at a major flood stage by 8 a.m. Thursday; the Monongahela River at Braddock could reach a possible major flood stage at 2 p.m Thursday; and the Youghiogheny River at Sutersville and the Elizabeth Dam in Allegheny County could both reach a moderate flood stage at 2 p.m. Thursday.

In addition, the Point in downtown Pittsburgh could see minor flooding. According to officials with the Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh district, that high-water event could also cause the Monongahela Wharf, 10th Street bypass and the Parkway “bathtub” to be out of service from Wednesday through Friday afternoon.

“These are all based on forecasted rainfall amounts, Redmond said. “We still kept the river flood watch up instead of going for warnings yet because we’re not seeing the rainfall amounts that we were expecting and so those numbers will likely be adjusted today as the data starts to come in with how much rain has actually fallen.”

River flooding forecasts will likely be updated Wednesday morning.

Due to rising river water, the Army Corps of Engineers is expecting the Braddock, Charleroi, Elizabeth, Grays Landing, Maxwell and Point Marion locks and dams along the lower Monongahela River to be temporarily out of service until water levels recede. The Hildebrand, Morgantown and Opekiska locks and dams will remain in service.

To help mitigate potential flooding in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities, the corps is performing controlled releases at the Conemaugh, Stonewall Jackson, Tygart and Youghiogheny reservoirs. The goal is to retain water and reduce downstream water levels.

In anticipation of the predicted rainfall, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a proclamation of disaster emergency.

“This dangerous storm continues to have devastating impacts across the south and as it heads toward Pennsylvania, we are expecting significant rainfall across the state,” Wolf said in a release. “This proclamation will allow for our emergency preparedness teams to provide any support needed throughout the storm and its aftermath.”

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources shut down campsites Wednesday and Thursday in numerous state park and forests as the rain moved through. Those closures affect Kooser, Linn Run and Laurel Hill parks, among several others statewide. Visitors are asked to leave by noon Wednesday.

Prior to Ida reaching Pennsylvania, local officials in Western Pennsylvania began preparing for significant rainfall and potential flooding.

Ida is expected to move out of the region Wednesday evening.

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .