Gov. Murphy declares state of emergency in rain-sodden S. Jersey as officials await more storm evacuations

Gov. Murphy declares state of emergency in rain-sodden S. Jersey as officials await more storm evacuations

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.

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.

Gov. Murphy declares state of emergency in rain-sodden S. Jersey as officials await more storm evacuations

“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.”

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.

“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.

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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.

“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.

Gov. Murphy declares state of emergency in rain-sodden S. Jersey as officials await more storm evacuations

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.

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.

Gov. Murphy declares state of emergency in rain-sodden S. Jersey as officials await more storm evacuations

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 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.


Mary Greeley News
www.marygreeley.com

credit: In part with https://www.inquirer.com/news/flooding-philadelphia-south-jersey-patco-septa-highways-rancocas-creek-20190620.html