June 20, 2019– Mary Greeley News – Officials are bracing for another round of thunderstorms after torrential downpours hammered South Jersey overnight, flooding highways, paralyzing the PATCO High Speed Line and forcing the evacuation of residents along the rising Rancocas and Big Timber creeks.
Showers and possibly strong thunderstorms are expected to impact the homebound commute Thursday and continue well into the evening, the National Weather Service says.
At 2:33 p.m., the weather service issued a severe thunderstorm warning and a flash flood warning for Philadelphia and points west and south.
“Our big concern is pockets of heavy rain,” said Joe Miketta, a meteorologist who coordinates the weather service’s local warnings. That could set off renewed flooding along already engorged waterways. In addition, strong winds could be a significant issue into Friday when gusts could reach as high as 40 mph and may threaten trees in saturated grounds, he said.
“We’re not trying to scare people,” he said.
Severe thunderstorms are possible Friday and Friday night across parts of the northern and central Plains, middle and lower Missouri and mid Mississippi Valleys, to the Tennessee Valley region. Excessive rainfall may lead to flash flooding over portions of the Midwest. pic.twitter.com/cBOZDrQbq9
— National Weather Service (@NWS) June 21, 2019
Drenching downpours overnight — more than four inches fell at Philadelphia International Airport — caused a panoply of problems that prompted New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to declare states of emergency in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties.
“It’s pretty clear that Mother Nature is shifting toward us, not away from us,” Murphy said during an afternoon press conference at the Cherry Hill Fire Department. “It’s more frequent and more intense.”
Local flooding from heavy rains all morning. Yep, that's a stranded/submerged truck whose driver was an idiot (I'd assume, since they had to drive around barriers). Still, shocking to see this much water…never happens around here pic.twitter.com/eGWJcrDgR4
— Eric (@FinerGround) June 21, 2019
Throughout the afternoon, the governor traveled to the affected counties, thanking first responders who worked through the early morning hours, while local officials pledged to fight for federal dollars to repair damaged homes. Conversations with home owners in Burlington County, Murphy said, were tough. One young couple, he said, had tears welling in their eyes because of the damage to their homes.
Camden County Emergency Manager Coordinator Sam Spino said crews “are ready for whatever” and out in high-wheel vehicles to evacuate as needed.
During a press conference in Southampton, cell phone alarms –– signaling a flash flood warning –– broke up the meeting.
Flooding in Lumberton, NJ has Main Street shut down. Residents are displaced throughout South Jersey after major early morning flooding. pic.twitter.com/upAjfUPQmK
— Kimberly Davis CBS3 (@KimberlyDavisTV) June 21, 2019
“The concern, that we haven’t addressed until now,” Murphy said, “is that there’s more coming tonight.”
Scores of people were forced out of their homes and into rescue boats in Lumberton and Southampton townships due to the Rancocas overflowing. To the south in Westville, the rising Big Timber Creek led to the evacuation of 59 people who found their streets and homes surrounded by water.
In Southampton, where about 67 homes were affected by flooding, officials at the Vincent Fire Company were readying for another possible round of rescues if the new storms and a rising tide force residents who opted to stay in their homes previously to leave Thursday night.
Sean McFarland uses a kayak to get to the main road in storm-ravaged Westville, NJ, which had some of the worst flooding in decades. pic.twitter.com/5gWJlpXtV3
— Melanie Burney (@MLBURNEY) June 20, 2019
“Everybody’s running home to take a nap and get ready for it,” one firefighter said.
In total, approximately 50 people and nearly 20 pets were evacuated in Southampton beginning Thursday early morning, according to township administrator Kathleen Hoffman.
In Gloucester County, emergency management manager Charles Murtaugh said officials also were keeping an eye on Greenwich Township, which is protected by a levee along the Delaware and experienced some flooding during the day.
Murtaugh also said the flooding in Westville, which sits where Big Timber Creek meets the Delaware, was the worst to hit the borough since 1988.
Not only did those places prone to flooding in South Jersey do so, such as along Cooper River in Camden County, but high waters closed a number of highways for hours, including I-295 in Bellmawr where it merges with Route 42 and I-76. At least one highway, Route 73, remained closed in Maple Shade into the afternoon.
Burlington County reported that flooding closed roads at more than four dozen locations. Camden County said fire departments responded to about 70 calls for occupied vehicles stuck in water by 7 a.m.
Check out the flooding and subsequent clean up efforts early today at Woodcrest Station. PATCO crews worked around the clock to clean stations and repair storm damage in order for service to be restored as soon as possible. #patco #thepatco pic.twitter.com/Z9ZTPkFvvF
— PATCO (@RidePATCO) June 20, 2019
Before dawn, PATCO suspended all High Speed Line service between Lindenwold and Broadway in Camden after flooding washed away track ballast and water damaged some stations, forcing thousands of commuters to make other travel or work arrangements for the day.
Service has resumed for all trains, including the water-damaged Ashland station. Trains are scheduled to run every 10 minutes and make all stops. A return to the regular schedule was expected around 6 p.m., said PATCO General Manager John Hanson.
The scene on High Street in Westville, NJ where residents say it was the worst flooding in 30 years. pic.twitter.com/dFUn9aVrdq
— Melanie Burney (@MLBURNEY) June 20, 2019
The rains also downed trees and flooded roadways in Southeastern Pennsylvania, but that region appeared to have escaped the brunt of the overnight storms. Damage was reported in Montgomery County, where part of the roof collapsed at an Acme in Flourtown. No injuries were reported.
Flooding also closed several roads in Horsham Township, police said.
SEPTA reported no major problems during the morning rush hour.
credit: In part with https://www.inquirer.com/news/flooding-philadelphia-south-jersey-patco-septa-highways-rancocas-creek-20190620.html