Market Street Bridge closed, flood barriers up

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Projected river levels dropped during the day, but many in the Wyoming Valley weren’t taking any chances.

The projections from the National Weather Service have come down from a forecasted high of 34 feet in Wilkes-Barre. All along, the Eyewitness Weather Team has been forecasting minor to moderate flooding, though nothing serious enough to overwhelm the levee system.

Still, crews from Forty Fort, Kingston and the Diamond City converged to build the barrier and close the iconic Market Street Bridge.

“It’s very important, because if things were to change. You don’t have all that much time to assemble it. So now is the optimum time ahead of the storm that already came to get it done.” said Wayne Mitchell, supervisor, Luzerne County Roads & Bridges.

The sight of the earliest crews? A surprise for some.

“When I saw the cranes, I was actually traveling to see my mom lives in Plymouth,” said George Gavrish of Kingston.

Gavrish was thwarted from an early Christmas surprise. But he brought his son to check out the barrier being built up. It’s personal for them as Gavrish’s son was born just months after the big flood in 2011.

“I’m really surprised at the barriers going up because I heard 30-32 feet after the 11, I’m good. Do they say about 40,” Gavrish said.

Spectators popped in along the river to see the aluminum wall. Many of them getting a sense of safety on Christmas Day.

“You feel more comfortable with that, you know, the local people that are in charge of making sure everyone is safe that they are taking the precautions,” said Janice Dimirco of Wilkes-Barre.

If COVID-19 wasn’t enough to deter travel for the holiday, those who’ve seen high river waters before say take it as a sign.

“It’s 2020,” Dimirco said.

“Sit tight,” Gavrish advised. 

And, “Stay home,” Mitchell suggested.

The water levels in Wilkes-Barre are now projected to rise to 30 feet or so. That means there will still be some impacts on the other side of the river, namely upstream of the North Bridge but starting at the courthouse. 

The Market Street Bridge is expected to be closed through the weekend. Eyewitness News was told the barrier won’t come down until the river level begins to lower significantly.

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