NBCPhiladelphia.com - Rosemary Connors
The Neshaminy Creek in Bucks County was rising rapidly Thursday and was expected to be above flood level sometime Friday.
Heavy rain and high winds swept across the area Thursday, stranding drivers, flooding roadways and closing schools as emergency management officials braced for more downpours and possible evacuations.
And some area rivers could be cresting far above flood level on Friday.
Gov. Ed Rendell ordered the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to open its emergency operations center late Thursday afternoon so state agencies could assist communities and residents dealing with heavy rainfall statewide.
The Pennsylvania National Guard was on standby for central and eastern Pennsylvania, expected to see the worst of the flooding, with a potential for evacuations and road closures in some areas, Rendell said.
“People who live along streams and creeks know the dangers of rapidly rising water,” he said. “In light of the forecast, these residents... should take immediate steps to prepare before the situation becomes an emergency.”
The National Weather Service predicted that the Philadelphia area would receive four to six inches of rainfall overnight, potentially resulting in the Schuylkill River's second-worst flooding on record by Friday afternoon. In Philadelphia, the city extended the hours of its 3-1-1 call line and Mayor Michael Nutter announced the opening of two shelters in flood-prone neighborhoods that could take up two 300 people each if needed.
Some of the areas city officials were keeping an eye on included Columbus Blvd., Kelly Drive, Martin Luther King Drive, Main Street Manayunk, Cobbs Creek Parkway and Lincoln Drive. If a full weather emergency is declared then police and other emergency officials will head to these hot spots.
A downed tree forced SEPTA to suspend service on the Paoli-Thorndale regional rail line Thursday night. And the agency warned commuters of what could be extensive delays during the Friday morning commute on the Norristown, West Trenton, Warminster and Chestnut Hill lines.
The wild weather also hit Philadelphia International Airport where weather-related delays of up to two hours were being reported.
Much of eastern Pennsylvania was under flood warnings as storms could bring as much as six inches of rain before leaving the area on Friday. The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch Thursday for counties stretching from Philadelphia west to York and north to Allentown.
A flash flood warning was in effect for parts of central Pennsylvania, including Lancaster and Lebanon counties, through Thursday night.
If the rain continues as forecasts predict, the Schuylkill River in Reading will crest Friday evening at 21 1/2 feet, well above the flood stage of 13 feet, said Brian Gottschall of the Berks County Department of Emergency Services.
That would be the third-highest level on record, trailing only Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 and the storm of 2006, Gottschall said. Both caused heavy damage in the area, he said.
The Delaware and Lehigh rivers in the Lehigh Valley area also were expected to spill over their banks Friday, with minor flooding predicted.
As for the Garden State…
Heavy rain fell across parts of the state Thursday ahead of the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole. But large parts of the state, including Trenton, saw only light showers.
The National Weather Service is predicting more widespread rain in the overnight hours, however.
Rainfall totals could reach 4 inches in some areas before the storm ends on Friday. And that makes street and small-stream flooding likely.
The same could be said for Delaware. Flood warnings are in effect through Friday for New Castle and Kent Counties, according to the NWS.
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