WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Strong storms hit pockets of western and central Pennsylvania early Friday, bringing up to 7 inches of rain, turning roads into rivers, damaging homes in communities as far as 150 miles apart and killing one person.
Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the state’s National Guard to help in the recovery efforts after the storms left a path of destruction, downing power lines, destroying vehicles, damaging railroad beds and triggering mudslides.
The (Lock Haven) Express reported a man was killed Thursday night in Clinton County when a tree crashed down on his home.
Winds there had reached up to 100 mph, said National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Evanego.
Flash floods swept away at least two homes in Sullivan County, west of Scranton, according to WNEP-TV . Hundreds more were damaged in Centre County, home to Penn State’s main campus.
“It’s been quite a day,” said Centre County Commissioner Steven Dershem.
The storm brought some of the worst damage the Bald Eagle Valley of central Pennsylvania has seen since Hurricane Ivan brought downpours to the area in 2004, Dershem said. As of Friday morning, about 100 people were displaced, including about three dozen residents from a personal care home, he said.
John D. Yingling, director of Lycoming County’s department of public safety, had launched its nine boat teams to help residents and survey the damage with area bridge inspections and road assessments.
Lycoming County was among the hardest hit, and storms there wiped out the Wallis Run Road bridge across the Loyalsock Creek in Mountoursville, said PEMA spokeswoman Ruth Miller.
The flooding also caused a Sunoco Logistics gasoline pipeline to rupture, spilling an estimated 54,600 gallons into a tributary of the Loyalsock Creek and threatening the water supply of several thousand customers.
Pennsylvania American Water said its treatment plant along the Susquehanna River in Milton — downstream of the spill — might be impacted, and asked customers to conserve water in case the plant had to be shut down. Residents would be served by a second, unaffected treatment plant if the Milton plant had to be taken offline, the company said.
“We’ve been monitoring, testing the source water all day. We haven’t seen an impact yet,” but the gasoline plume could reach the plant overnight, said company spokeswoman Susan Turcmanovich.
Sunoco Logistics said it detected a drop in pressure around 3 a.m. Friday and shut down the pipeline. The company said crews were using skimmers to remove gasoline from impacted waterways — including Wallace Run and Loyalsock Creek — and erecting containment booms downstream.
The pipeline remains underwater and the direct source of the leak is still under investigation, Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeff Shields said.
The damage led county commissioners to call on the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency for assistance.
The state activated part of its transportation department to monitor and inspect state roadways and sent water rescue teams.
Officials across the state said they expect cleanup efforts to take some time, and local residents began their own Friday.
Mark Collister was trapped in his mobile home Thursday night when a nearby stream in Old Lycoming Township, near Williamsport, spilled chocolate brown water out of its banks and blocked the road. A half-dozen or so homes were damaged by the flooding.
“We knew we were going to get the rainstorm, but not as quick as it was,” Collister said.
The water receded enough for him to get to his social work job Friday at Jersey Shore Hospital, but he left early given the forecast for more rain.
Two miles away, along Lycoming Creek, Jim Heverly was power washing the layer of mud left on his home by Thursday night’s storm. Other neighbors were also digging through the mud.
Rescue crews had woken him up to evacuate his home, which sits less than 50 feet from the creek’s edge. Neighbors are used to flooding, but haven’t seen it this bad in more than a decade, he said.
“The rainfall was certainly pretty exceptional. It was not unheard of, but pretty unheard of as of late,” Evanego said.
The weather service reports that rain could soon return with showers forecast for later Friday expected to bring an inch or 2 more.