Isaias’ aftermath brings a massive cleanup at flooded homes, prolonged outages, and a closed Vine Street Expressway
Five confirmed tornadoes and 600,000 power outages later, the mess that Isaias made throughout the region was evident on a splendidly tranquil Wednesday from the Jersey Shore to Quakertown.
Tens of thousands of utility customers remained without lights, and might have to live without them for days; Isaias evidently outdid Hurricane Sandy for plunging Long Beach Island into darkness.
The Vine Street Expressway, one of the region’s most important highway links, remained closed. And countless residents of low-lying properties were left to bail out water and discard water-ruined possessions.
In Delaware County, entire neighborhoods in Darby Borough and Colwyn were devastated, said Timothy Boyce, director of the county’s emergency services department. Those lower-income areas already have been hit hard by unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Just seeing people who have very few things throwing them on the sidewalk, in the trash, was terrible,” Boyce said.
The Vine Street bridge took a hit from a 100-ton barge, but is deemed OK
The bridge that funnels cars off the Vine Street Expressway was deemed structurally sound Wednesday despite taking a hit from three barges that were being used to dredge the Schuylkill.
The structure was due to be reopened Thursday, PennDOT and city officials said.
Torrential rains swelled the river’s volume to more than 60 times what it had been less than two days earlier, speeding the current to about 4.5 miles an hour where the barges were moored, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The rising waters dislodged the barge C.B. Lehigh along with two hopper barges, which contractor Atlantic Subsea Inc. of Bridgeton was using to dredge years of silty buildup from the river in front of Boathouse Row and the racecourse further upstream.
The Lehigh and its sister vessels drifted for several hundred feet before hitting the bridge — an impact that could conceivably have caused structural damage, said Drexel University engineering professor Joseph Martin.
”I’m pretty sure there were some phenomenal forces,” he said.
Yet when inspectors descended from above in a bright-yellow crane, peering at the bridge’s massive steel beams and concrete piers up close, they deemed that all was well, said PennDOT District 6 executive Kenneth M. McClain.
A metal “stiffener bracket” sustained minor damage but can easily be repaired and will not prevent the structure from reopening safely, he said at a press conference with Mayor Jim Kenney and other government officials Wednesday.
”There were some minor structural issues that were discovered with the bridge, but nothing that compromises the structural integrity of the bridge itself,” McClain said.
Isaias could leave some customers in Pa., N.J. without power through the weekend
Regional power companies, aided by out-of-state crews, on Wednesday raced to restore electrical service to more than 600,000 customers knocked out Tuesday by Tropical Storm Isaias, and say that most customers will be back on line by Thursday or Friday, but some might be without power for several days.
Peco, the utility that serves Philadelphia and surrounding counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania, had restored service to about three-quarters of the 307,000 customers who were knocked out on Tuesday, and expects 90% to be back online by Thursday.
But disappointment awaits some unfortunate customers whose service is difficult to restore. Peco has given estimated restoration times as late as Sunday to some remote customers in hard-hit Chester and Bucks counties, said Alexandra Coppadge, a Peco spokeswoman.
Tornado aftermath still evident in Cape May County
In Marmora, Cape May County, the path of a tornado that blew over Route 9 from Strathmere was still shockingly evident Wednesday.
Branches stuck out of the side of a hospice building, Compassionate Care, where one had pierced six inches inside. A security guard stood by the entrance, which was strewn with broken glass, snapped trees, and what looked like pieces of the roof from the Coca Cola beverage plant across the street. Utility poles were leaning at precarious angles, and wires formed a dangling web in front of the buildings on this mostly commercial section of Route 9, across the bay from Ocean City.
At the Glory Road Memorials grave marker business, an enormous tree had taken out the right side of the building.
At the Pine Hill Mobile Home Court, bright orange stickers declared a handful of homes unfit for habitation, and the power remained off in part of the development.
The homes that were in the path of the tornado had roofs torn off, siding sheared, porches demolished and foundations broken.
‘Historic’ outage on Long Beach Island leaves vacationers in the dark, but on the beach
On Long Beach Island, Isaias’s winds exceeding more than 100 miles per hour Tuesday left the entire island without power for more than a day, plunging the Jersey Shore island into a no-traffic-light slumber that felt more like the off-season.
Not even during Hurricane Sandy did all of Long Beach Island go dark.
”It is historic that the whole island is down,” said KayCee Byrd, owner of the The Cheese Shoppe in Surf City, who had a generator brought down Tuesday by a friend from Villanova. She was selling pizza dough for people to cook on their grills. “Everybody’s been scrambling.”
Many visitors left on Tuesday, reeling from the bursts of high winds that shook homes, snapped signs, gazebos, mailboxes and power lines, and sandblasted people who nonetheless went to the beach to look at the storm’s aftermath.
For those who remained, like Pete Foisset, of Valhalla, N.Y., his son, Luke, 11, and their extended family of about 14 people who gathered in a circle on the beach Wednesday, the choice to stick around was easy, despite a storm Luke said knocked over their cousin’s gazebo. (Another cousin went out in the darkness Tuesday and rode his bike into a parked truck, and had a nasty scrape to show for it.)
”We have no power in Valhalla either,” Pete said. “I’d rather be at the beach with no power.”
“If you give us lemons,” he added, amiably, “we’ll put them in our drinks.”
Pete and son Luke Foisset of Valhalla, Westchester, N.Y., are just fine in Surf City despite power outrage that struck all of Long Beach Island. Their house back home has no power either. “If you give us lemons,” Pete said, “we’ll put them in our drinks.” #TropicalStormIsaiaspic.twitter.com/vHRD9Uu2Vi
Nearby on the beach, Nancy Edelman of Yardley said she’d try to ride it out. She’s down for the month of August. “It’s going great,” she said. “It was great until the power went out. At least the weather’s nice.”
Like others on LBI, she recalled a wind that shook her home, but none of the flooding and rain people were preparing for.
On Wednesday, even the Wawa was closed on LBI, as business owners coped with this latest summer of 2020 challenge. How You Brewin? coffee shop advertised a power outage special of Nitro and Cold Brew and pastries “while they last.” Pizza shops were shut down altogether.
At the Wave Hog Surf Shop, manager Max Diamond said the storm had left the shop with lots of boards to repair but, “the one good thing about this storm coming through is there’s waves.”
Max Diamond, manager of Wave Hog Surf Shop in Ship Bottom, says shop still w/o power & there are lots of boards to repair from #TropicalStormIsaias but, “The one good thing about this storm coming through is there’s waves.”
Francis Tedesco of Atlantic City Electric said he believed this was the first time all the power was out across Long Beach Island, which has 19,800 customers. He said the Ship Bottom substation was put out of service “due to a transmission line issue in that area, in addition to two downed utility poles.”
And around mid-afternoon, the power in Surf City and other parts of the island came back on. Tedesco said power had been restored to all but 11,000 customers in Ocean County.
Winds were recorded at 109 mph from a water spout in the bay near Ship Bottom, according to the National Weather Service.
In Philly, fire department made 200 rescues Tuesday; Red Cross sheltered 130 people
The Philadelphia Fire Department completed about 200 rescue missions and the American Red Cross put up 130 people whose homes were impacted by downpours and heavy winds associated with Tropical Storm Isaias.
Meanwhile, city officials said during a briefing Wednesday afternoon that they are working with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan to free a loose barge stuck under a bridge, resulting in the closure of the Vine Street Expressway. Officials said they plan to use tugboats to free the barge, which they expect to be able to do once the swollen Schuylkill River recedes by Thursday afternoon. After the barge is freed, they expect to be able to reopen traffic. The structural integrity of the bridge remains sound.
SEPTA suspended rail service between Suburban Station and 30th Street Station “out of an abundance of caution,” said Chief Surface Transportation Officer Mike Liberi. He said he expects service to resume Thursday.
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said neighborhoods hit hardest by flooding include the Eastwick section of Southwest Philadelphia and Manayunk, and both communities are familiar with flooding.
“We know there’s damage everywhere,” he said. “We also know, because we feel it too, this is on top of COVID and all the other things that folks are dealing with around the city.”
Thiel urged residents to stay away from new mud or standing water, and to call 911 if they smell gas or believe they have electrical problems as a result of water.
As of 2 p.m., about 1,900 PECO customers in Philadelphia remained without power.
Southwest Philly residents return to their neighborhood after Isaias
Piles of damp carpet, clothing, sofa cushions and other housewares were being stacked in front of homes Wednesday morning into the early afternoon, just 24-hours after storm water cascaded down Lindbergh Boulevard in Southwest Philadelphia.
Residents in the 8100 block said it was the worst flooding since Hurricane Floyd in 1999. “My basement is, like, kaput,” said Anne Marie Snock, 72, who has lived on the block for 45 years.
Across the street, Barbara Guions was being helped by her brother and friends in getting storm-damaged items from her home to the front driveway. “The water came in so fast, we had absolutely no warning. It poured through here for about three and a half hours. I got about four and a half feet,” she said.
Areas throughout the entire five-county region got hit by flooding, said Sophie Kluthe, spokesperson for the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Two hotels were used to house 134 people last night whose homes were not habitable, she said, and a yet-to-be determined number of people will be housed in hotels again Wednesday night, she said.
”We’re here to help anyone displaced by the storm,” said Kluthe, who asked anyone in need of assistance to call 1-800-Red-Cross.
The Vine Street Expressway will remain closed from Broad Street to the Schuylkill until at least Thursday afternoon while inspectors check for damage to the bridge that was struck by a loose barge in the rain-swollen Schuylkill River, PennDOT announced Wednesday.
PennDOT spokesman Brad Rudolph said engineers are looking at the I-676 bridge beam that was hit by the barge and for any related damages.
The Schuylkill River, which has receded below flood stage, should retreat enough Thursday for the Army Corps of Engineers to remove the barge, PennDOT said.
PennDOT suggested the following route alternatives for motorists:
To New Jersey: Take I-76 East to the Walt Whitman Bridge;
I-76 heading to Center City: Exit at the Spring Garden Street or South Street interchanges
I-95 South: Take Exit 19 and follow Front Street to Pattison Avenue to Broad Street to the I-76 West entrance ramp
As of midday Wednesday, about 977,000 households in New Jersey were still waiting for power restoration, Gov. Phil Murphy said, down from the 1.4 million that lacked electricity at the storm’s height.
He said full restoration could take hours to days. By comparison, at Superstorm Sandy’s peak, there were about 1.7 million people without power.
“New Jersey got literally whacked,” said Joe Fiordaliso, president of the state Board of Public Utilities. He said the entire state was “ravaged.”
Fiordaliso said there was considerable tree damage and downed electric poles throughout the state.
After a relatively mild winter with no storms, “Our luck ran out,” he said.
Meanwhile, NJ Transit crews were still working to clear tracks. More than 250 trees went down across tracks, causing service to come to a halt across the system on Tuesday. A number of state parks also remain closed due to damage, Murphy said.
Montco girl who went missing during storm found dead
A 5-year-old girl from Montgomery County was found dead after going missing during the height of Tropical Storm Isaias, becoming the first reported casualty of the storm in the Philadelphia region.
Eliza Talal was reported missing from her home in Towamencin Township about noon Tuesday, according to state police. Crews searched for Eliza, who was nonverbal and autistic, well into the morning hours Wednesday, according to county officials.
Her body was found near the Towamencin Creek, which had swollen overnight due to the extensive rains from the storm.
Across the Philly suburbs, Isaias left property damage, broken spirits in its wake
As Wednesday dawned with clear skies, officials throughout the Philadelphia suburbs breathed a collective sigh of relief. But the brunt of their work was just beginning.
Isaias tore through the northern and western suburbs Tuesday, bringing powerful winds that caused widespread damage to homes and businesses, and torrential rain that swelled creeks and streams to record-setting levels.
The National Weather Service confirmed that two tornadoes touched down in the region during the storm, one in Doylestown that sheared the roof off a building at a hospital in the borough, and another in Worcester Township, a rural Montgomery County municipality.
No fatalities were reported during the storm, but hundreds of people had to be rescued from homes rapidly filling with water, officials said.
”We have to be very clear and give folks a realistic time frame,” Murphy said, as he surveyed an intersection in Jackson, Ocean County, with downed wires and trees and spoke with Jim Fakult, president of Jersey Central Power & Light, which still has about a half-million customers without power in Central Jersey. “I’d be very crystal clear this is going to be a multi day event.”
Murphy said he had no damage estimates from Tropical Storm Isaias, which he said tore through the state “like a knife through butter,” and spawned a tornado in Strathmere that then damaged numerous homes in a trailer park in Marmora, Cape May County.
The storm downed trees, damaging awnings and roofs and blowing down outdoor dining areas that had been set up to cope with coronavirus restrictions. Winds exceeded 100 miles per hour on Long Beach Island during what was described as “tornadic thunderstorms.”
”This storm came through hard and fast, which had some benefits in the sense of personal damages and flooding, which we have less of,” he said. “The big legacy from this storm however is going to be power outages.”
Though most will get power restored by Thursday night, he said, “some will linger beyond that.”
Barge on Schuylkill will be freed when water subsides
In a statement, the Army Corps said that the high flow along the river dislodged the crane barge Lehigh, and two associated hopper barges from their moorings Tuesday evening.
The barges had been secured between the Spring Garden Bridge and the Vine Street Expressway/676 Bridge, but were pushed up against the Vine Street Expressway/676 Bridge and remained in that position Wednesday morning.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closed the bridge to traffic in both directions as the Army Corps and Atlantic Subsea assessed the situation and worked on a plan to free the vessels.
A tugboat will likely be used to free the barges when water subsides.
It may take ‘several days’ for some to get power back
Some residents in hard-hit Chester and Bucks counties may have to wait “several days” before their power is restored, while certain New Jersey neighborhoods may be out for an “extended period,” energy company spokespeople said.
Tropical storm Isaias knocked out power to 307,000 customers in Philadelphia and its collar counties on Tuesday, a PECO spokesperson said, and by Wednesday morning the number was down to about 131,000.
It remained too early to provide a specific estimate as to when power will be back for some customers, she said, but it could take days in the hardest-hit areas, particularly those where downed trees and flooding prevent workers from easily repairing power lines.
PSE&G, which covers parts of New Jersey, said it had fewer than 300,000 customers without power as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, a number that was down from 575,000 a day earlier. Most of the outages are in North and Central Jersey.
Isaias is “among the strongest storms to hit our service territory in recent years,” the company said in a statement, “and some outages could last for an extended period.”
Through mutual-aid, PSE&G said it has requested 1,700 additional workers from 15 other states and Canada. PECO has 700 additional crews assisting them, the spokesperson said, and is requesting more help.
However, three million homes are without power from the Carolinas to New England, she said, so crews all along the East Coast are busy. PECO also doesn’t want to flood any areas with too many out-of-town workers in the middle of a pandemic.
“We’re very careful about who we bring into these communities,” she said.
‘Mind blowing’ damage to some of Boathouse Row, rowing equipment, docks further upstream
About 30 people affiliated with rowing organizations along the Schuylkill River were busy assessing damage from flooding Tuesday into Wednesday from tropical storm Isaias.
Bonnie Mueller, vice commodore of the Schuylkill, said photos she’s seen taken from inside some of the historic rowing houses along Boathouse Row are “mind blowing” as to how high the water rose inside.
”We haven’t been able to assess it all yet,” Mueller said. “We haven’t been able to get inside. All of the clubs at Boathouse Row are working to salvage the docks.” She said that water was already in the houses 5 p.m. Tuesday from the Kelly Drive side where the wall runs along the road. Mueller said the docks had been disassembled and moored at the Playing Angels statue, a little more than a mile upstream, and above the Girard Bridge. She feared damage to the docks and equipment that were moved there.
”Today is equally and almost as dangerous,” she said. “It’s when the river drops and recedes all of that equipment gets in jeopardy of getting hung up on the seawall and trees.”
Barge stuck on Schuylkill is part of dredge operation for Boathouse Row
A barge that struck the I-676 ramp to the Schuylkill Expressway was part of a project to dredge years of silt from Boathouse Row and the racecourse further upstream.
Bonnie Mueller, vice commodore of the Schuylkill Navy, confirmed that the barge was being used for that purpose but did not have further information. A representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is managing the project, could not be reached immediately for comment. Nor could the contractor, Atlantic Subsea, Inc. of Bridgeton.
Atlantic Subsea began silt removal in early June. The project calls for dredging miles of the Schuylkill above Fairmount Dam to remove 60,000 cubic yards of sediment that has created hazards for rowers and threatened famed regattas that use the storied racecourse.
In preparation, the docks along Boathouse Row were removed for the first time in a century.
The Schuylkill Navy, an association for amateur rowing clubs, had been racing to fund the dredge to avoid having regattas canceled because of sediment buildup. Though the effort began years ago, it ran into another block this spring with the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. The Army Corps awarded the contract to Atlantic Subsea.
The company was dredging roughly three miles of the Schuylkill in stages including in front of Boathouse Row, a separate rowing lagoon, and the national racecourse farther upstream near the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. The sediment was being pumped via pipe to barges downstream, south of the I-676 bridge. The barges dispose of the dredged material at Fort Mifflin.
But the barge was apparently on the river at its second highest crest on record, and a time of astonishing flow.
The river flows on average at 1,690 cubic feet per second. It reached 55,800 Wednesday and nearly 80,000 during the height of the storm on Tuesday.
The water was expected to drop below minor flood stage around 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Thousands remain without power in Pa. and South Jersey
Nearly 132,000 PECO customers are still without power Wednesday morning, a day after heavy rain and wind from Hurricane Isaias swept through the region. Most of the outages are in Buck and Chester counties, according to the energy company’s outage map.
More than 50,000 customers appear to be without power in the Chester County area, according to the map. Another 24,000 customers are in the dark in lower Bucks County, plus 6,000 farther north near Doylestown.
At least six people were killed as Tropical Storm Isaias spawned tornadoes and dumped rain Tuesday along the U.S. East Coast after making landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina, where it caused floods and fires that displaced dozens of people.
Two people died when Isaias spun off a tornado that struck a North Carolina mobile home park. Another person died in Pennsylvania when their vehicle was overtaken by water and swept downstream. Two others were killed by falling trees toppled by the storm in Maryland and New York City, and a sixth person died in Delaware when a tree branch fell on them, authorities said.
Isaias sustained top winds of up to 65 mph (105 kph) more than 18 hours after coming ashore, but it was down to 45 mph max winds as of 10:50 p.m. EDT Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm’s center was about 45 miles southeast of Montreal, moving northeast into Canada at about 38 mph (61 kph).
The National Weather Service in Mount Holly confirmed six tornadoes due to Isaias on Tuesday, including four in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Tornadoes touched down in Cape May County, Ocean County, Bucks County, and Montgomery County. Another tornado was confirmed in the state of Delaware and another in Maryland.
SEPTA Regional Rail resumes services on four lines
SEPTA has resumed service on four of its Regional Rail lines — the Paoli-Thorndale, the Lansdale-Doylestown, the Media-Elwyn, and the West Trenton. The other 10 lines remain suspended.
However, riders should “expect residual delays while full operations are restored,” spokesperson John Golden said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear why these four lines could resume operation, since their trains pass where the barge is stuck. The lines are the ones with the most stations, which means they leave many riders without alternate travel options when trains stop running.
The transportation authority had halted all of its Regional Rail trains Tuesday night into Wednesday morning due to an unsecured barge on the flooded Schuylkill River. The water level was declining Wednesday morning.
Recap: Isaias leaves destruction and thousands in Philly region without power
It didn’t take long for the region’s second tropical storm in less than four weeks to pull the plugs on 600,000 utility customers, spawn at least two tornadoes, break a rainfall record, and set off a flood of water rescues and high drama.
And Isaias’ effects could linger into early Wednesday with the potential for historic flood levels along the cresting Schuylkill.
The river was expected to crest sometime after midnight and reach 15.4 feet. Gary Szatkowski, a meteorologist retired from the National Weather Service, tweeted that the crest would be the second highest on record. “This would be the highest river level since 1869 ... over 150 years ago,” he wrote.
“The worst of this event is yet to come,” Adam Thiel, Philadelphia’s fire commissioner and director of its Office of Emergency Management, said Tuesday afternoon.
SEPTA regional rail shut down because of unsecured barge on Schuylkill, Vine Street Expressway also closed
SEPTA announced late Tuesday night that all Regional Rail lines had been suspended because of an unsecured barge on the flooded Schuykill.
The city’s Office of Emergency Management also announced Tuesday that the Vine Street Expressway had been closed.
“The barge is currently located near the Vine Street Expressway Bridge, which is upstream from a SEPTA rail bridge at 30th Street. Out of an abundance of caution, SEPTA is suspending Regional Rail service until the barge is secured or passes the rail bridge,” said SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch.
“SEPTA has bridge inspectors and other personnel at the scene to work on reopening the bridge once the situation with the barge is resolved,” Busch said in an emailed statement.
A person on Twitter posted a video showing a barge appearing to make contact with the bridge because of the high water.
And there are three barges on the #SchuylkillRiver that are nestled up against the Vine St expressway. Here’s some video from about 8pm. They were previously anchored several hundred yards upstream. pic.twitter.com/cipewgIk6r
Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Adam K. Thiel said Tuesday night that emergency responders are coordinating evacuations in the city’s Manayunk section as the flooded Schuylkill continues to rise.
‘Scary’ flooding in Eastwick brings back memories of Hurricane Floyd
Again, the flooding came to Eastwick and Ramona Rousseau-Reid’s phone started ringing.
Rousseau-Reid, an Eastwick resident for more than three decades, is a community activist with the Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition and residents were calling to tell her just how bad the flood was this time.
She looked outside the window of her home at the 8400 block of Brunswick Place and saw the tennis court, basketball court and baseball field at the now-shuttered Pepper Middle School across the street under water. She remembered Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and thought “Oh my god this is like deja vu.”
Rousseau-Reid went outside and saw the flooding hadn’t reached her side of the street. Then she walked less than a block to 84th and Lindbergh Blvd with her neighbors and saw the devastation. There were ambulances, and fire engines, homes trapped by flooding, and a man waving his arm in the middle of the street with water up to his waist.
”It’s scary,” Rousseau-Reid, 69, said. “This is an ongoing problem that has crippled and plagued this community for many decades.”
Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson said he remembers residents asking him back in 2011, when he became their representative, “How are we going to address the issue of Darby Creek?”
Johnson said there should be assistance from the local, state and federal agencies and lawmakers to address the flood zone and is working to convene a virtual town hall with stakeholders at all levels and residents to discuss the environmental issues facing Eastwick. He went out to the flood zone on Tuesday and saw cars under water and firemen walking down the street with water up to their waist. When he spoke to residents they also mentioned the damage from Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
”I recognize that we have these natural occurrences that happen from time to time but they have a significant impact on the quality of life on the people who live inside Eastwick,” Johnson said. “They deserve to receive the type of support they do need so when these floods happen their lives aren’t turned upside down.”
The Philadelphia Office of Emegency Management and weather forecasters said the Schuylkill is expected experience major flooding overnight and residents near its banks should pay close attention to the river and official warnings.
The Schuylkill was expected to crest sometime after midnight and reach 15.4 feet.
Gary Szatkowski, a meteorologist retired from the National Weather Service, tweeted that the crest would be the second highest on record.
“This would be the highest river level since 1869...over 150 years ago,” he wrote.
Now forecasting the second highest crest on record. This would cause substantial damage in Philadelphia. pic.twitter.com/2hHk8t3oV3
City urges residents hit by Eastwick flooding to seek help
The city’s Office of Emergency Management is urging residents in the Eastwick section of Southwest Philadelphia to evacuate from their homes if they have more than 12 inches of flood water or their utilities are not working.
“If you are in the Eastwick area and are in need of assistance, please go to the Rite Aid located at Island Ave. & Lindbergh Blvd,” the office advised on its Twitter account. “The Office of Emergency Management and the Red Cross are there to provide assistance. If you need assistance getting to the Rite Aid, call 911.”
The OEM recommended that evacuating residents take with them their medication, pets, pet supplies, and other essentials they may need overnight.
“Please bring a mask, if you do not have a mask, one will be provided to you. If you smell gas, call 911,” the office tweeted.
If you are evacuating don’t leave your pets behind. We have responders on scene who can assist you. https://t.co/ACJYswNXKj
Wissahickon overflows in Ambler, floods environmental group’s headquarters
Gail Farmer, director of the nonprofit Wissahickon Trails, went to the group’s headquarters at Four Mills Nature Reserve Tuesday morning, fearful it might flood during tropical storm Isaias.
She left the stone building on the banks of the Wissahickon about 10:45 a.m. when the situation didn’t appear immediately dire. However, within 15 minutes, someone sent her a video of the building flooding.
”The driveway was just a waterfall,” Farmer said later after she and others went to assess the damage from water that rushed into the first floor, which is concrete.
”Everything is covered in mud,” Farmer said. “Furniture. File cabinets — anything that touched the floor has water damage and smells like the nastiest part of a pond.”
Jennifer Bilger, engagement director for the organization, said the creek received more than 7 inches of rain, which caused the creek to overflow, causing multiple road closures in the area.
She said it was a top 5 flood event for the Wissahickon at a USGS gauge at Fort Washington. The creek reached 15.25, several feet over flood stage. The highest ever recorded at that location was 18 feet. The last time the organization’s building flooded was during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
More than 600,000 customers on both sides of the Delaware River lost electrical power during Tuesday’s storm, and customers at the New Jersey Shore and in Philadelphia’s leafy suburbs appear to have absorbed the hardest blows.
”This is going to be a tough one,” said Lauren Ugorji, a spokeswoman for Public Service Electric & Gas Co., which reported more than 133,000 of its customers in South Jersey lost power. “Customers should expect delays.”
As many as 190,000 of Atlantic City Electric’s 545,000 customers — more than a third — lost power as Tropical Storm Isaias lashed the region with high winds and heavy rain, knocking out about 14 major trunk lines, or high-voltage transmission lines, that serve entire communities and subdivisions.
”We have pretty extensive damage to our local electrical distribution system,” said Frank Tedesco, an ACE spokesman. The utility was still doing damage assessments Tuesday afternoon and could not estimate restoration times, he said.
Peco, which serves more than 1.6 million customers in Philadelphia and Southeastern Pennsylvania, lost more than 300,000 customers at the storm’s peak, said Steven Singh, vice president of technical services. The outages were heaviest in Chester and Bucks Counties. Peco had not completed damage assessment or estimated restoration times.
Peco said the Tuesday outages, which grew in number throughout the day, differed from the damage it suffered on June 3, when an unexpected storm — the eighth-biggest in company history — knocked out 400,000 customers in just the first hour.
Singh said that because forecasters had predicted the path of Isaias several days in advance, the company was able to position workers and equipment to respond to the outage.
PSE&G, the giant New Jersey utility whose territory stretches from Gloucester County to the New York border, reported that about 20% of its 2.3 million customers statewide had lost power. Ugorji said the storm knocked out several transmission lines and substations that serve as local distribution hubs.
PSE&G has deployed 2,800 line workers, and put out a call for 1,700 workers from other utilities. About 1,300 of those workers were already in place when the storm hit, said Ugorji.
Hospital exec describes damage at daycare center in Doylestown
Jim Brexler was in his office at Doylestown Hospital on Tuesday morning, midway through a meeting, when he heard a rumble that sounded like a train. Through his window, the hospital’s chief executive officer saw wind-whipped trees bowing heavily, battered by the wind.
Then he got the call that the roof of Children’s’ Village, a daycare that caters to hospital workers’ children, was blown off.
”We literally just picked everything up and said ‘We need to get over there,’” Brexler said Tuesday. “We all ran down the halls of the hospital to get outside.”
Amid a heavy downpour and severe winds, Brexler and some of his staff members assisted police officers and fire fighters in herding 135 children and their teachers out of the day care, escorting them into a nearby radiology building, where they rode out the worst of Tropical Storm Isaias in a basement.
High winds from the storm tore off the roof above the large, central room in the middle of the daycare building, which is normally where teachers keep the children during the day. But because of social distancing required during the coronavirus pandemic, the children were split up into groups, separated in rooms further inside the building.
It likely saved them from serious injury, Brexler said.
”It was a real blessing,” he said. “For what could have been a devastating issue, could’ve been a lot of damage physically, but no one was injured at all.”
After the winds died down and the rain lessened, hospital staff helped load the kids onto busses provided by the Central Bucks School district, carrying them over the broken glass in the radiation building’s atrium. The kids remained at nearby Lenape Middle School until their parents finished their shifts at the hospital and were able to pick them up, according to Brexler.
Hospital officials are assessing the damage to other nearby buildings as well, and the daycare service will be temporarily suspended until they can find an alternate location.
Emergency responders still busy in Montgomery County
Even after the rains subsided in the afternoon, Montgomery County crews were still busy assessing damage and aiding in rescue efforts.
There were 114 water rescues dispatched in the county between 7:49 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to , according to Todd Stieritz, the public affairs coordinator for the county’s department of public safety.
One such rescue attempt remained active well into the evening in Whitemarsh Township, after a person was reported to be floating in the Schuylkill River just after noon. Ground crews found no sign of the individual, and county officials brought in an aerial crew to comb over the area, Stieritz said.
Aside from that search, there were no reports of major injuries or fatalities related to the storm.
Throughout the county, power outages peaked at about 63,000, and were steadily dropping in the late afternoon, though thousands still remained in the dark.
The camp had been able to secure hotel rooms for some elderly residents before the storm hit, said advocate Sterling Johnson, and the day before, residents like William Scott, 37, had helped others spread prepare for the deluge, elevating some tents on pallets and spreading tarps across them to keep the rain out.
Donyae Austin, who’s been staying at the camp full-time for about a week, was awoken by the sound of the rain pounding his tent, but managed to keep his belongings dry under a tarp. Others picked through muddy puddles amid the downpour, moving from the small shelters where the camp has organized a medic tent, a donation site and a kitchen.
Sheron Brown, 42, said he had made it through the night but eventually the rain became too much for his small tent to ward off, even though he’d draped it in tarps: “Some of our stuff will be able to be salvaged, but the bottom part, where we sleep, is completely soaked,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the large tent holding supplies for the camp had collapsed under the weight of water. Organizers feared they’d lost donations of toilet paper and paper towels, and said residents need dry clothes, rain gear and more tarps to protect their belongings.
But more importantly, residents said, they need what the encampment has been demanding since its establishment more than a month ago: permanent housing.The encampment, Johnson said, is the result of years of frustration over the city’s approach to clearing encampments around Philadelphia, and a lack of permanent housing on offer for its homeless residents.
City officials had originally planned to clear the encampment itself last month, but reversed course and are still negotiating with organizers.
”I’m looking forward to getting a deal that makes sure every person here receives the benefit of resources to get permanent housing — or get on the road to it,” Johnson said.
As Isaias deluged the region, streams rose in a hurry
Small streams became like creeks, and creeks became like rivers as prodigious amounts of rain, up to 8 inches in some areas, swelled waterways throughout the Philadelphia region by early afternoon Tuesday.
Chester Creek, near Chester in Delaware County, and the East Branch of Perkiomen Creek at Schwenksville, saw an enormous rise in just a few hours.
Flood stage at Chester Creek is 8 about feet, which would cause minor flooding. But the creek peaked at more than 17 feet into major flooding at 2:15 p.m.
And the Perkiomen in Schwenksville, Montgomery County, hit 12.35 feet at 1:46 p.m., well above the 8 foot flood stage, and not far off the record of 14 feet.
But the speed at which the waterways rose was astonishing. For example, Chester Creek normally meanders at about 62 cubic feet per second. On Tuesday, it hit 7,650, well more than 100 times its normal flow. All that water poured into the waterway in just a few hours.
The Perkiomen at Schwenksville averages a flow of about 53 cfps. It reached 9,760. Other waterways also swelled under the strain. A gauge on the Schuylkill in Philadelphia, 150 feet upstream from the Fairmount Dam, normally registers a flow of about 1,770. However, on Tuesday it reached 46,400.
It reached just above the flood stage of 11 feet.
And the East Branch of Brandywine Creek below Downingtown also blew past flood stage.
It was that way throughout the region.
”This is the highest I’ve ever seen it here,” Julie Slavet, director of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership said of multiple locations along the Frankford Creek.
Flooding displaces 100 households in Delco; more than 100,000 lose power in Chesco
Officials Delaware County said that more than 100 households will likely be displaced from neighborhoods in Darby and Upper Darby because of flooding, said Timothy Boyce, the county’s director of emergency services.
Due to the pandemic, families displaced will not be moved to traditional shelters. Instead, he said, the county will help place them in hotels as quickly as possible.
Jose F. Moreno
Hurricane Isaias brings heavy rain to Route 320 in Swarthmore.
Delaware County officials were now moving their focus to the city of Chester as the Chester Creek rises. Evacuations are expected in Chester, he said, while the county’s more northern parts, which include Radnor Township and Broomall, appear to be through the worst.
Water rescues continued across the county throughout the day. Several people who were rescued from trapped cars suffered minor injuries, including bruises and cuts from broken glass, Boyce said.
While wind damage and power outages weren’t widespread in Delaware County, more than 100,000 households in neighboring Chester County were without power Tuesday afternoon, said emergency services spokesperson Patty Mains.
Fire and EMS crews were reporting downed trees and wires blocking roadways across the county, she said, but had done only 12 water rescues as of mid-afternoon.
Officials from both counties advised residents to stay home and avoid travel unless absolutely necessary due to the risk of post-storm flooding.
Isaias’ winds, rains knock out power to nearly 600,000
Isaias has zipped through the region with surprising speed, but not before generating up to 8 inches of rain — more than two months’ worth — and powerful winds that have combined to knock out power to almost 600,000 customers.
The National Hurricane Center said it had crossed the New Jersey border into northeastern Pennsylvania Tuesday afternoon, moving faster than had been forecast.
Patrick O’Hara, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, said that the upper-level steering winds were unusually strong for this time of year.
Although the rains appear to be over, strong winds could persist for the next few hours, he said, and that could well drive up power outages as the ground is so saturated that some trees would be vulnerable.
Gusts of 60 mph have been measured, along with reports of tornadoes.
PECO reported Over 300,000 outages, and Atlantic City Electric, nearly 200,000, about half of those in hard-hit Burlington County.
Rains back off, but “worst” of flooding yet to come, city says
The rain has backed off, but significant wind gusts will continue, and Adam Thiel, Philadelphia’s Fire Commissioner and Director of the Office of Emergency Management, said that flooding in the region “has really just begun.”
The Schuylkill is expected to rise to 18 feet, he said; flood stage is 11 feet. The city is “spinning up” to deploy resources for potential flooding of the river, he said.
”The worst of this event is yet to come,” he said.
The city has also deployed mutual aid to Delaware County.” We’ve already done 180 fire related incidents this morning, and that’s about five times what we normally do in a day,” Thiel said.
Thiel said there have been calls for water rescues around Darby Creek and Cobbs Creek. Wissahickon Creek was also already beyond its banks Tuesday afternoon.
Despite South Jersey tornado, no injuries reported
Scott Morgan, the head of emergency management in Upper Township, said it appeared the tornado traveled from Strathmere and cut a diagonal path through Marmora.
”It actually started out in Strathmere, but touched down in Marmora,” Morgan said.
“Sometime around 9:30, 9:45, we started getting the brunt of this storm,” Morgan said, standing out on Route 9, where the Coca Cola plant and the grave marker company had taken a direct hit from the storm.
“From all indications, from the videos we received, eye witnesses, we had a tornado go through here, roughly diagonally across Marmora, from about the 500 block of Shore Road to the 300 block of Stage Coach Road. ”Many houses and businesses have been damaged, several electrical utility poles are down, we have a good portion of Upper Township out.”
He said there were no reported injuries, but some individuals were displaced and were being helped by the Red Cross. Most of the area is commercial property, but some residential, he said.
“The next stage obviously is clean up and repair,” he said. He urged people to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.
Witnesses say tornado near Ocean City came close to a day-care center
Witnesses in Marmora, Upper Township, just inland from Ocean City, reported seeing a debris-filled tornado split into two spouts that ripped up roofs and downed power lines, and skirted along Route 9, overturning tractor-trailers at the Liberty Coca Cola Beverage distribution center.
They said it was spinning with trees branches and other debris and also came through the parking lot of a nearby day care center, Tomorrow’s World, on Tuckahoe Road. The owner gathered the children into the bathroom for safety, said Jaime Bannon, whose two grandchildren, ages 1 and 5, were there.
Bannon was driving with her friend Jill Moran when they saw the tornado as they got off the Parkway onto Route 9 at Exit 25, she said. “It was pretty intense,” she said. “I went into panic mode.” She said cars were swerving to turn around away from the scene, and “you could see the line it came through.”
”There was damage all through,” she said. “I couldn’t believe any of it.” Bannon said the tornado appeared to split in two.”
I think what happened, was it was one big one and split into two,” she said. “There’s trees down.”At the Coca Cola plant, she said, “There’s trailers flipped over,” and some windshields broken.
Tina Casey, who works at the nearby Action Supply, said the tornado passed close by three commercial buildings she manages, but damage was limited to some signs. “It’s just crazy down here,” she said.
She said the Coca Cola plant and a nearby grave marker business, Glory Road Memorials, were in the direct path. “I have not heard of any injuries so far, thank the Lord,” she said.
SEPTA stops service on regional rail and high-speed lines
SEPTA has suspended service on several of its regional rail lines.
As of 12:30 p.m., the Paoli-Thorndale, Manayunk-Norristown, Lansdale-Doylestown, Cynwyd, Chestnut Hill West, West Trenton, and Wilmington-Newark lines were halted, as was the Norristown High Speed Line, according to the transit agency.
Some bus and trolley routes had to be rerouted Tuesday morning, but by midday SEPTA said all trolleys were back on their normal routes with residual delays.
Some bus lines were continuing to be rerouted.The most up-to-date information on specific routes and lines can be found at realtime.septa.org/systemstatus.
Rash of water rescues reported in Delco: ‘We are flooding everywhere’
Delaware County emergency officials said they were actively responding late Tuesday morning to about 250 storm-related incidents, most of which involved people trapped in their cars on flooded roads.
”Almost everything is water rescue, including in areas where we don’t normally see it,” said Timothy Boyce, the county’s director of emergency services. “People are getting stuck in traffic and the water is rising up to them, so it’s not even like they’re driving into it.”
He said he had no reports of injuries.
Calls started picking up around 10 a.m., he said. While the flooding is widespread, the situation was worse along the Darby Creek, as well as in the area of Chester Pike and MacDade Boulevard in Collingdale.
There was some flooding into homes in neighborhoods around Brookhaven and Aston, Boyce said.
He said impassable roads could delay fire and EMS response times.
”The best advice for anybody is to stay off the roads,” Boyce said. If someone must travel, he said, they should avoid getting stuck in traffic. If you see a backup, he added, turn around and take another route quickly to prevent water from possibly rising to you.
The conditions on roadways are “awful,” he said. “We are flooding everywhere.”
Eight injured, day-care center roof torn off in Doylestown
Powerful winds swept through Doylestown Tuesday afternoon, causing widespread damage to homes and vehicles.
The gusts tore the roof off Children’s Village, a day-care on the grounds of Doylestown Hospital, according to county spokesperson Larry King.
High winds strike Doylestown Hospital, partially tearing roof off of Children's Village daycare. No reports of serious injuries. Tornado not confirmed but winds were strong enough to overturn vehicles in parking lot. #IsaiasBuckspic.twitter.com/pDRPPWuSc0
New Jersey State Police troopers at the Woodbine barracks in Cape May County were called to multiple instances of downed power lines and trees blocking major roadways, a spokesperson at the barracks said Tuesday.
The most serious incident occurred along the Garden State Parkway in the county, where felled trees blocked the highway temporarily near mile marker 24.
Crews were dispatched to remove the debris about 10:30 a.m. No injuries were reported.
A tornado touched down in the Marmora section of Upper Township, outside of Ocean City, Cape May County Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Pagliughi Martin said Tuesday.
”It definitely touched down in Marmora,” he said, “around Route 9, over toward Stage Coach Road.” He said the tornado damaged six to 12 buildings, both residential and commercial. No injuries were immediately reported, but fire and electrical crews, along with a “regional search team” were responding to the scene.
”We are still assessing all the damage,” Pagliughi said. Throughout the county, he said, several thousand had lost power. “Mostly, it’s a lot of tree damage.” ”There’s been a couple transformer fires, wires arcing,” he said. “Nothing catastrophic we’ve had yet.”
He said the reports near Strathmere were of a water spout coming in off the ocean, but did not appear to cause any significant damage.
Stream volumes are off the charts from Isaias rains
Isaias was still hours from peak power over the Philadelphia region midmorning, but was already churning rivers and streams, many roiling from water flow far in excess of normal.
For example, Chester Creek, near Chester in Delaware County, has a flood stage of eight feet. It was at nine and a half feet by 9:30 a.m.
On the Delaware River at Trenton, water normally flows at about 6,620 cubic feet per second (cfps). It was flowing at 9,777.
On the Schuylkill at Philly, flow is normally 1,770 cfps. It was at 10,200. The maximum flow recorded at that location was 19,000 in 2018, a record wet year in Pennsylvania.The Cooper River in Haddonfield has a normal flow of 25.
It was at 109.And Neshaminy Creek in Chalfont normally flows at 31. It was at 410.
All homes and businesses along Colwell Lane in Conshohocken were told to evacuate about 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday as rains swelled the Schuylkill.
All residential units and businesses within the Conshohocken section along Colwell Lane are recommended to evacuate due to flash flooding. If you have an emergency, please dial 911. Please continue to stay tuned for further updates regarding the storm. https://t.co/Mov7Jmuo9q
Although parts of the county were under a tornado warning, only a handful of incidents were reported across Bucks County on Tuesday morning, mostly cars that stalled as their drivers attempted to navigate through roadways flooded by smaller streams and creeks, according to county spokesperson Larry King.
No injuries were reported. The county’s emergency operations center in Ivyland is open until midnight, with officials monitoring the weather patterns and prepared to dispatch services as needed.
County officials, in anticipation of power outages, prepared generators and portable HVAC systems at nursing homes and other critical are facilities, and have stockpiled supplies in case temporary shelters need to be set up, King said.
Tornado watches up until 4 p.m.; conditions about to worsen
Tornado watches are up for the entire region until 4 p.m. as Isaias approaches the region and tracks through the heart of New Jersey Tu morning into the afternoon.
Heavy rains well in advance of the storm center already have set off flood warnings and advisories, with the Schuylkill sloshing over its banks along Kelly Drive, and Chester Creek reaching flood stage.
Tornado warnings were posted earlier for parts of Philadelphia and Bucks and Montgomery Counties, however no sightings have yet been confirmed.
And forecasters say conditions are about to deteriorate.
Tropical-storm warnings are in effect into tonight, with gusts of 70 mph were expected at the Shore, and 60 mph on the mainland. near hurricane force.
Strong winds and heavily saturated grounds likely will mean downed trees and power outages.
Downpours from fitful showers already are swelling streams and generating runoff, and flood watches are up until midnight.
“For New Jersey, Isaias looks to be a wetter and windier version of last month’s Fay. In the worst-case scenario, Isaias presents wind and rain/flood risks that could approach those of Irene,” said New Jersey state climatologist David A. Robinson. Irene, in 2011, caused widespread flooding, and it marked the last time that the Delaware River main stem flooded.
Sewage impacts worry Philadelphia Water Department
The Philadelphia Water Department will no doubt be monitoring the impact of the huge volume of water flowing into its aging combined sewage system.
It was designed decades ago to overflow during storms into local waterways, including the Delaware River and the Schuylkill in a combined system, storm water runoff flows into the same pipes as everything that gets flushed down toilets. In dry weather, they both flow together to one of the city’s three plants that treat the water before releasing it back into the Delaware River.
However, during heavy rains, the plants can’t handle the volume. So, as a safety valve, the combined storm water and sewage automatically diverts to outfalls, known as combined sewer overflows, or CSOs that spill into creeks and streams during storms.
Though sewage does get released in the process, it is highly diluted, but still polluting.