Monongahela River Flooding Causes Moderate Damages

Washington PA Observer-Reporter
5 March 2015
By Scott Beveridge, Staff Writer

The rain-swelled Monongahela River caused scattered flooding and damages ranging from minor to moderate across Washington and Greene counties as a heavy snowstorm moved into the region Thursday night and Friday.

A Mon River tributary, Pigeon Creek, also spilled its banks, sending water into an Monongahela office plaza, while the river rose the highest in the Point Marion area to the south.  “The flooding was sporadic,” said Washington County Public Safety Director Jeff Yates.

 “Those folks are self-sufficient down there,” Yates said. “They know what to expect and take care of things.”

Freezing temperatures Thursday, accompanied by a strong snowstorm, slowed the snowmelt and prevented the flooding from worsening, the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh said.  “For the Mon, we’re pretty much good,” said weather service meteorologist Fred McMullen.

He said there would be a gradual warming trend without rain through the weekend, which should result in a gradual snowmelt.

Washington County received between 5 and 9 inches of snow by Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, Waynesburg saw 9 inches of snow and smaller amounts in other parts of the county, McMullen said.

Area schools, including California University of Pennsylvania, canceled classes, and the morning commute was difficult for many.

A tractor-trailer crashed on Interstate 70 near Bentleyville at about 5 a.m. Thursday, briefly closing the highway.

A truck went off Webster Avenue and traveled down a 125-foot embankment into Ten Mile Creek in Clarksville shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday, according to Greene County Emergency Management Director Greg Leathers. The names of the driver and two passengers were not available, but none was injured.

McMullen said ice from smaller streams “flowed out” Wednesday night into the Monongahela River. Ice still covered the Allegheny River Thursday.  “That’s another problem to worry about,” McMullen said.

The river rose even higher than flooding predictions in parts of Washington and Greene counties by Thursday morning, causing moderate damage in low-lying areas, the National Weather Service said.

The river crested at 33.5 feet at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Locks and Dam No. 4 in Charleroi, closing the Mon to navigation. The river reaches flood stage there when its depth tops 28 feet. The weather service initially expected the river in Charleroi to crest at 32 feet.

The river crested at 27.9 feet in the Point Marion area, marking the seventh-highest level on record and the worst flooding there since January 1996, the weather service posted on Twiter. Floods begin to cause major damage to Fayette and Greene counties in that area when the river depth reaches 28 feet.

There was minor flooding reported at Grays Landing Lock and Dam in Greene.

While the flood warning wasn’t expected to be lifted until late Thursday or early today, the river had begun to recede across both counties by 7 a.m. Thursday, the weather service reported.

The river spilled its banks Wednesday night during heavy rain mixed with a rapid snow melt. A Washington County 911 supervisor said West Brownsville experienced the first flooding Wednesday night. The flooding was widespread in Fayette City in Fayette County, the weather service reported.

Yates said the county’s 911 called out an extra employee during the flooding, expecting a busy night that never materialized.

 “We weren’t that busy,” Yates said Thursday.

The state Department of Transportation reported several roads closed in Washington and Greene counties as a result of flooding.