Severe Weather Handbook: Facing flooding fears

Severe Weather Handbook

WEST PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) We all know that northeastern and central Pennsylvania have taken a beating from flooding events over time.

“The first thing when I hear there’s a large amount of rain coming is I look and see where’s the river at now and how much rain coming and should I be worried is it going to happen again,” said John Ochman, a West Pittston resident.

It’s a worry Ochman knows all too well living in West Pittston.

“Well, I was here in 2011. I saw what happened to the town in 2011. It was just unthinkable that the river could come up that quick and that could happen,” said Ochman.

“In 2011, it just devastated our town. Absolutely devastated it,” said Ellen Quinn, the West Pittston Borough Council President.

A flood that broke records along the Susquehanna River in September of 2011 thanks to a continuous moisture flow from remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.

Although, big flood events in our area don’t always have to come from tropical systems.

“Between really July of 2018 and June of 2019, it was the wettest year on record across much of the commonwealth, specifically in July and August. We saw many locations get seven or eight inches of rain in just a one week period,” said John Banghoff, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College.

But when it comes down to it, flooding is flooding. And it’s something that you don’t want to risk your life for. That’s why you hear us meteorologists always say: “Turn around, don’t drown.”

When it comes to flooded roadways, six inches of water can sweep a person off their feet. It’s not until you hit around 12 inches or more that larger vehicles and SUVs can be swept away into flooded waters.

And let’s take the time to remember the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning.
A flood watch means you should be prepared—that conditions are favorable for flooding.

And a flood warning or flash flood warning means you need to take action and move to higher ground—because a flood is occurring or imminent.

“Another common occurrence for flash flooding is when you just have a whole bunch of rain over a long period of time or multiple really strong rounds of rain from maybe multiple thunderstorms going through or multiple days worth of thunderstorms that have affected the same area,” said Banghoff.

While Mother Nature can be unpredictable at times, it’s important to review your flood emergency plans now before a storm strikes. That way you’re prepared in your own home for if something were to happen like the flooding along Susquehanna River nearly a decade ago.

“It’s a beautiful river, when it stays in its banks… Very beautiful river. All I can think about is when will the next flood come?” said Ellen Quinn.

You can find more from our Severe Weather Handbook here.

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