According to the National Weather Service, the flooding in central Pennsylvania reached historic levels this month. As a professional from the Lancaster area with a real estate project developing in Lititz, PA, flooding like this is a great concern.
At the height of flooding, 150 roads were closed, according to a PennDOT spokesman. Because of flooding along the Swatara Creek, HersheyPark and ZooAmerica were closed for two days. There was also concerning flooding along the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg.
Central Pennsylvania is still dealing with the effects of the rain. Debris unfortunately caused damage to some roadways and bridges, requiring mass repairs and inspection.
More rain is expected over the next week, but the risk of further flooding is considered low because most river levels have returned to normal. The National Weather Service will track ground saturation levels and rainfall to issue watches and warnings to any areas at risk of flooding.
Pennsylvanians are no strangers to flooding. For example, Lititz Springs Park was under water in 2011 because of rain from Tropical Storm Lee. Many homes in the area were affected by basement flooding. The areas most affected were near Lititz Run and Santo Domingo. The tropical storm had similar consequences for the rest of central PA.
Going further back in history, Tropical Storm Agnes hit in 1972, causing widespread flooding in much of central Pennsylvania, including Lancaster county. June 2017 marked the 45th anniversary of the storm. It was one of the most costly natural disasters in Pennsylvania history, costing $3 billion nationwide. Adjusted for inflation, the cost would be equivalent to $17.5 billion today. The storm sadly took the lives of 122 people.
We often correlate flooding with summer storms, but it’s important to remember the floods that occurred in January of 1996 after the major snowfall. Because of the precipitation and ice jams, the Susquehanna River Basin was heavily affected. In fact, 57 of PA’s 67 counties reported flooding after the storm.
Drainage systems are in place in PA, but sometimes flooding is inevitable. If you near of a flood warning or watch, take proper precautions to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones. If you live in an area where flooding is common, create a plan and prepare your home and family. During a flood, stay informed and get to higher ground. Obey evacuation orders, but never walk or drive through flood water. After a flood, wait for the “all clear” before returning to disaster areas.