Record Flooding on Susquehanna in Pennsylvania

September 10, 2011; 6:30 AM
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Meshoppen, Pa taken on Sept. 8, 2011 and June 24, 1972. Thanks to Ida L. for fowarding this comparison of the same street, same bridge in the town along the Susquehanna River.

The worst flooding since Agnes in 1972 continues in the valleys of the Susquehanna, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes in Pennsylvania and New York.

Over a foot of rain has fallen in some areas. It appears in some areas rivers will stop short of levels reached in June of 1972, but there have been some exceptions such as the Binghamton, N.Y. and in Bloomsburg, Meshoppen, and Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

In some cases the flooding is worse than that of Agnes, in areas that do not have levee protection.

In other areas with levees, thus far the flooding is not as bad as that of June 1972, provided the levees hold.

The fire hose of tropical downpours held steady Wednesday and Thursday, too steadily for the Susquehanna River, its tributaries and others to handle.

According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews, "At peak, the flow of the Susquehanna River at Marietta, Pa., will be almost two times that of the average flow of the lower Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Miss."

Levees, bridges and dams are feeling the stress.

Water levels on these rivers has challenged or topped record heights, which include those of the first billion-dollar disaster for the U.S.: Hurricane Agnes. Lee and its remnants will be the latest.

These are the official National Weather Service Hydrological crest levels and record crests for key points along the Susquehanna River:

Binghamton, N.Y.: 25.7 feet / 25.0 feet June 2006... Record crest has occurred.

Wilkes-Barre, Pa: 42.66 feet / 40.9 feet June 1972...Gauge broken; Record crest has occurred.

Danville, Pa.: 31.55 feet / 32.3 feet June 1972...Crest in progress.

Sunbury, Pa.: 31.66 feet / 35.8 feet June 1972...Crest has occurred.

Harrisburg, Pa.: 25.17 feet / 32.6 feet June 1972...Crest has occurred.

Conowingo Dam, Md.: 32.41 feet / 36.8 feet June 1972...Crest may have occurred. Gates are open.

In Luzerne County, Pa. alone, around 70,000 people have been evacuated Thursday and Friday.

This image shows the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. on June 23, 1972 (top) and Sept. 9, 2011 (bottom). The bottom image was taken early in the day on the 9th. Water level on the Susquehanna river at the bridge is currently receding.

Upstream and downstream on the Susquehanna from New York state to Maryland, it is the same story.

If you are told to leave, do so. Do not return to your homes and businesses until given the "all-clear" by officials. Even though rivers may have crested and are receding, the risk of levee failure continues. Curfews may be in effect and you may be arrested. Do not drive through flooded roadways.

Shelters were open in Broome County, New York, where the Susquehanna crested above record stage at Binghamton.

The American Red Cross has opened multiple shelters in Luzerne, Wyoming, Susquehanna, Bradford and Sullivan counties in Pennsylvania for those displaced by flooding.

Massive levees along the Susquehanna in much of Wyoming Valley, Pa. officially protect cities including Wilkes-Barre, Kingston and Forty Fort from water levels up to 41 feet. However, there is a small buffer on top of this, protecting up to a few feet higher.

While rivers will recede this weekend, it will be a slow process. Some roads may be impassable and communities inaccessible due to high water.

This story has been updated by Alex Sosnowski at 5:30 p.m. EDT Friday.


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