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Flash flood engulfs Downingtown

In Chester County, the  usual troublespots have flooded, said Patty Mains, a spokeswoman for the county's Department of Emergency Services, but Downingtown was particularly hard hit.

The borough of Downingtown was essentially "split in half" by flooding last night, she said. Downingtown Police Lt. Howard Holland said police were just starting to relax as the tributaries of the Brandywine Creek that snake through the borough were visibly receding and the rains had subsided. Then, with no warning, the Brandywine burst over its banks about 5:30 p.m., engulfing Route 30 and Pennsylvania Avenue and making it impossible to travel from one end of the borough to the other.

"It came up so fast," said Holland. "Areas were flooded in 15 minutes; I've never seen anything like that before." He said members of his department spent nearly six hours instructing  residents to move vehicles and preparing for possible evacuations. "Fortunately, it didn't get to that point," Holland said. "No one was injured, and no one had to be rescued."

He said there were some tense moments. "We had some cars waiting to be auctioned in the back [of the police lot], and they had to be moved," he said. At one point, police feared the water would overtake the police station. "It came up very close," Hollard said. "We were considering evacuating; it was that close."

Holland said he hoped residents would continue to heed road blockades. "Our whole goal is safety," Holland said. "Don't drive around barriers; you're just going to become a victim and waste valuable resources." He said with more rain in the forecast, he fears condition will get worse before they improve. "Where's all the water going to go?" he asked. "Downingtown is like a big bowl."

Mains said 41 residents of an Avondale apartment complex had to be evacuated last night and went to a shelter set up by the Red Cross at Avon Grove High School in West Grove. She said the complex owner said he had sufficient vacancies at higher elevations in the building to relocate all the tenants today.