Flood prep tested in Wilkes-Barre
After a successful levee drill last week, the Wilkes-Barre City Emergency Response Team continued testing its flood preparedness plans Monday.
About 27 staff members from the fire, police and public works departments met in South Wilkes-Barre to evaluate four floodgates along Solomon Creek.
Wilkes-Barre City Fire Chief Jay Delaney said the gates were added in the early 2000s to allow water to flow over the top of the bridges while protecting the neighborhood around South Franklin, Barney, Regent and Waller Streets in the event of a flood.
Testing the gates during non-emergency scenarios helps first responders’ reaction time and shows if improvements need to be made to equipment, Delaney said.
“It’s a safer time to do it right now in the middle of the morning on a sunny day, rather than 3 o’clock in the morning on a dark night during a hurricane trying to get them closed to evaluate and find out if there’s problems,” he said.
In 2021, Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown ordered city departments to drop the floodgates when Solomon Creek began to swell. Residents were asked to leave their homes.
“During Tropical Storm Ida we evacuated this whole neighborhood down here because the water came up so high,” Delaney said. “We had the floodgates closed and they actually protected the neighborhood and there was no flooding.”
The National Weather Service recorded more than five inches of rain on Sept. 1, 2021 in Wilkes-Barre. Ida made landfall in the U.S. in southeastern Louisiana several days prior on Aug. 26, according to a NWS report.
Last week, staff from the same three city departments assembled a portable levee in the northern part of the city, Delaney said. The Emergency Response team took inventory of equipment then built and broke down the removable levee along North Washington Street on May 1.
“When there is a potential high water event we don’t start the day-of, we start several days before with the National Weather Service looking at all the forecasting and the models,” Delaney said.
In addition to recent preparedness exercises, the City of Wilkes-Barre has also improved channel walls along Laurel Run Creek and Mill Creek, part of a more than million dollar project, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. After heavy rainfall at the end of April, Mayor Brown shared photos of higher-than-average water levels in Laurel Run Creek rushing between the new channel walls along Kresge Street.
With the tests and improvements completed for this season, the fire and public works departments will continue to collaborate and adjust their flood response plans. Delaney said in coming weeks staff members will discuss strengths and weaknesses of the exercises.