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Clean-up underway after deadly flooding in Northeast Pa.

Just off Jackson Street in Scranton, city workers stood knee deep in water on Monday.

Two long orange hoses pumped the murky brown water out of the residential area and into a nearby Lindy Creek.

Heavy rainfall on Saturday caused deadly flash flooding in areas of Northeast Pennsylvania, including Scranton and the Abingtons. It flooded homes, collapsed a bridge and shut down roads and schools. Residents and municipal officials continued to clean up Monday as state officials provided updates on the community’s recovery from the storm.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Mike Carroll said the people of Northeastern PA are resilient and resourceful.

“I saw it first hand yesterday as I witnessed the people with skid steers and brooms, and physical labor," said Carroll, "making sure that they did what they could to repair the damage that was quite significant."

Carroll called the flooding from Saturday’s storm catastrophic. According to the National Weather Service, rainfall rates were 2 to 4 inches an hour at times. The thunderstorms that developed over the higher terrain simply did not move very fast. That allowed torrential downpours to just sit over the same area for a long time, the weather service said.

"Because of the the intensity of the storms now ... that's a real challenge for the infrastructure and not just bridges, but the entire infrastructure that PennDOT and the local governments have," said Carroll.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll discusses what he called "catastrophic flooding" in the region.
Kat Bolus
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll discusses what he called "catastrophic flooding" in the region.

The storm primarily hit the Keyser Valley in Scranton, areas of the Abingtons and the Back Mountain in Luzerne County and part of Wyoming County that boarders Lackawanna.

Virginia Paoloni, a Clarks Summit resident, drowned in the storm, said Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Rowland. Heavy water rushing from the creek along Shady Lane Road in South Abington Twp. filled the vehicle she was in. The 61-year-old got out of the car and was caught in the run-off current, Rowland said.

The road was open Monday afternoon as crews raked and clean up debris from outside the nearby South Abington Twp. Municipal Building. Down Keyser Avenue and throughout the Abingtons tree branches and rocks lined the sides of roads; mud was still caked to some surfaces.

A section of Bailey Street over Leggetts Creek, near Shady Lane Road in South Abington Twp., was destroyed by high-intensity rainfall.
Kat Bolus
A section of Bailey Street over Leggetts Creek, near Shady Lane Road in South Abington Twp., was destroyed by high-intensity rainfall.

A total of 23 roads closed from the storm; most have or are expected to reopen by the end of Monday. Seven of those roads will reopen by Sept. 18, Carroll said. PennDOT crews were also out inspecting bridges and roads around the region. 

In Newton Twp., a bridge on Falls Road collapsed. Carroll said over 150 Abington Heights School District students cross that bridge a day to get to school; 2,100 vehicles a day travel that road. PennDOT is working to replace the bridge over Falls Creek.

"You have a 100-year-old bridge with a once-every-100-year-storm and that's a bad combination," he said.

The Notch, a heavily traveled area of Route 11 that leads from South Abington Twp. into Scranton, is expected to open back up Monday. It's used by 10,000 vehicles a day. Power lines over the road were damaged significantly and dangled into Leggetts Creek that runs along the roadway.

The significant amount of rain over a very short period of time overwhelmed the current flood systems, said Randy Padfield, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director.

Padfield said because the storm was so localized it might be hard to reach a federal disaster threshold. However, residents should report property damages to their local municipalities.

"Really that drives a lot of what we do, when it comes to what federal aid may be available," he said.

Lackawanna County's Emergency Management Agency is collaborating with PEMA and state officials to set up a Multi-Agency Resource Center on Sept. 21, 22 and 23 to help impacted residents and businesses find information on available programs, according to the county. The center location is not determined yet, but there, officials will provide the next steps for repair and cleanup work and connect those impacted with resources and personnel that can help.

Three school buildings in the Abington Heights School District were flooded, said Superintendent Christopher Shaffer, Ed.D. South Abington Elementary School on Northern Boulevard is in the floodplain. Leggetts Creek runs behind it. Water came in the front and the back of the building, said Shaffer. Abington Heights High School and Clarks Summit Elementary were also damaged.

"Our goal is to get our students back into their routine and in school as soon as possible," he said. "We're feeling very optimistic about that."

Lackawanna County Commissioners and Scranton officials authorized disaster declarations over the weekend.

Scranton Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti said during a press conference on Sunday that the city sustained many millions of dollars in damage.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.