Region gets a soaker, but not much flooding

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Route 100 is aptly named Creek Road in Birmingham Township, Chester County. Fears that melting snow would worsen flooding weren't fulfilled.

Although the heaviest rains since Jan. 1 swelled rivers and streams yesterday, the region was spared major flooding. The waterways should calm down nicely today.

The overnight downpours and impressive rainfall totals did create minor problems during the morning rush.

In southern Chester County, where almost 3.5 inches were reported, Elk Creek came out of its banks. In Montgomery County, where flooding occurred along the Perkiomen Creek, at least nine roads were closed. The Neshaminy Creek also overflowed at Langhorne, Bucks County.

Outside Chester County, rainfall totals were mostly in the 1.5-inch range. That was also the case in South Jersey, where the storm's effcts were not as severe. Officially, the 1.43 inches at Philadelphia International Airport was the highest total since New Year's Day.

No evacuations were reported in the region, but the flooding along the Brandywine in Chester County was significant enough to give students in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District a three-day weekend. That hardly qualifies as unusual, though: A former superintendent used to joke about keeping scuba gear in a closet.

"Comparing this to other floods in the past," said Lee Robertson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Mount Holly, "this doesn't even come close."

The rain stopped a few hours sooner than expected, giving way to an afternoon that was the nicest since the early-season warm spell ended in January.

Also, fears that melting snow and ice combined with heavy rains in the headwater regions of the Delaware River and the Schuylkill would set off ripple-effect flooding here did not materialize.

Tony Gigi, also a weather service meteorologist, said that so much of the ground cover upstream consisted of ice that it might have resisted melting.

The rains were wrung from a storm complex that affected almost all of the East. In the South, it spawned tragedy in the form of deadly tornadoes.

Most of what happened around here qualified as nuisance.

In Chester County, emergency workers reported road closures on Route 926 in Westtown and Birmingham Townships. That's where Police Officer Chris Urbany set up watch near a stretch of road submerged by four to five feet of water and cordoned off with cones and police tape.

Urbany's goal: saving people from themselves.

"If I weren't here, people would cut right through the tape and go through," he said, adding that he and his colleagues issued nine citations yesterday morning for violators.

One motorist got a well-deserved double whammy, according to Urbany. In addition to a ticket, he had to be rescued from his blue Dodge Caravan, which refused to turn into a boat and stalled in the deep water.

Meanwhile, it did rain hard enough to give Unionville-Chadds Ford Superintendent Sharon Parker a landmark day.

She got to declare her first flood closing.

Parker, who came to the often-deluged district last year, said she got a crash course in analyzing hydrologic reports.

She also quickly learned that flood days often outnumber snow days in a district where part of the lure is proximity to what she calls "the magnificent Brandywine."

Advised that her predecessor joked about keeping scuba gear in a closet, Parker said she would rely on her waders and a snorkel.

"We're doing swimmingly well," she concluded.


Contact staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea at 610-701-7625 or kbrady@phillynews.com.