Gray clouds hung low in the sky as the residents of Milesburg took stock of their borough early Friday morning.
The water that covered the side streets of the borough had receded, leaving muddy roads, soggy fields and flooded basements. The hum of sump pumps could be heard as pipes snaked from open basement doors and windows, spilling brown water into already saturated yards.
Neighbors Tom Letterman, 72, and Donald Watson, 75, chatted on Watson’s front porch at the intersection of Iddings and Spring streets — an intersection that had been completely washed over. Letterman said he was surprised at how quickly the flooding occurred, as the rain had started at about 9:40 p.m. the previous night and the area was covered in water by 12:15 a.m.
“It’s the fastest I’ve ever seen,” Watson said.
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Letterman said the basements in the area are frequently flooded anytime there is significant rain. Watson added residents learn quickly not to keep valuables in their basements.
Letterman added that they were lucky in their neighborhood as only his basement flooded, saying residents further up the road had water in their living spaces. He said his car was flooded as well, because the water rose so quickly there wasn’t time to react.
In Bellefonte, public information officer and criminal justice planning department Director Gene Lauri said that seven different counties had pitched in with rescue efforts in Centre County. As of his last report, about 100 individuals had either been evacuated or rescued from Milesburg and the surrounding area.
Lauri warned residents with flooded basements not to go into their basement until they were notified that the power had been shut off, saying there was a danger of someone getting shocked.
County officials are monitoring for additional flooding throughout the day, he said, as more rain is expected and streams could rise again if rainfall is significant.
“I would warn residents if there is any additional rainfall, if they see any indication that the water is starting to rise and didn’t evacuate this morning, to get out while they can,” he said. “There’s no sense in putting themselves in jeopardy.”
Lauri credited Bald Eagle Area High School with being very cooperative in providing space for evacuees, saying as long as the shelter is needed, it will remain open.
County office of emergency services Director Jeff Wharran said declaring an area a disaster site opens the door for state and federal funding for damages if the criteria and thresholds are met. Damage assessment teams will be gathering information from residents in the coming days.
Centre County will be working with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to interview residents and assess damage, he said. Churches and other volunteer organizations have begun reaching out as well, he said, including the United Way.