Break in clouds expected this week

Wet weather to continue today; new flooding unlikely

Adam Lapenna, an employee with Werstil Maintenance Repair Operations, cuts grass in the rain for a commercial account Monday afternoon along Plank Road. Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec

Gray skies and soaking rain have remained a near constant in the past months and weeks, and Monday was no exception.

Rainy weather is to persist today, further contributing to one of the top-10 rainiest years on record in Altoona, according to David Martin, a National Weather Service Meteorologist.

But flooding concerns were not as high Monday as they have been in the weeks prior, experts said.

Rain, Martin said, “will continue on and off “ through this afternoon.

So far this year, Altoona has received about 39.4 inches of rainfall, National Weather Service statistics showed Monday afternoon.

That is about 13.6 inches above average for the area, Martin said.

This month’s rainfall also is above average at 5.9 inches — about 4.12 inches above the norm, he said.

As rain fell Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for parts of Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Clearfield and Huntingdon counties. That watch remains in effect today.

Residents of the region have become familiar with flooding this year as seemingly relentless storms dumped inches of rain.

In Patton, a late July storm led officials to encourage residents to evacuate as a swollen Little Chest Creek threatened to breach a dam.

In Hollidaysburg, floodwaters washed over the Gaysport neighborhood in mid-August, filling basements with feet of water.

And just last week, homes were evacuated in Blair and Bedford counties. There, some schools were dismissed early and other schools canceled classes entirely due to poor weather conditions.

One of those schools was Hollidaysburg Area School District’s Frankstown Elementary — flood-related road closures prevented transportation to the school Sept. 10.

Hollidaysburg Area School District operated with normal hours Monday, unaffected by the rain.

Despite the flood watch, Martin said Monday’s rainfall was “not looking quite as bad” as storms from the previous week.

That is at least partly due to the storm’s speed. The storms that produced flooding moved slowly and dropped constant heavy rain, while Monday’s moved more quickly with lighter rainfall, Martin said.

This week’s rains, Martin said, are the result of Hurricane Florence, which has been destructive and life-threatening in the southeastern United States.

As of Monday afternoon, Martin said flooding wasn’t likely “unless something really changes.”

Still, Bedford officials like David Cubbison, the county’s Emergency Management Agency director, remained vigilant.

“I’m praying that the rain stops soon,” he said Monday.

However, the few days of dry, sunny weather proceeding that rain means the water systems had time to drain, reducing flooding risks, Cubbison said.

“We have had no reports of basement flooding,” he said. “My hope is that creeks and rivers are not going to come up because we’ve had several days of decent weather.”

That doesn’t mean recent flooding has been forgotten. The Bedford County Emergency Management Agency issued a release, asking local residents affected by recent weather to speak out.

They have been asked to call the agency’s non-emergency number — 623-9117 — and to leave their names, addresses, phone numbers and a brief descriptions of how much water entered their homes.

They also have been encouraged to estimate the cost of damages and to indicate whether or not they are insured.

That is because the county has to cross a certain threshold — $180,000 of uninsured damage — to qualify for disaster relief funds.

Those funds come from the federal government but are distributed through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Cubbison said.

And the state has to declare a state of emergency and cross its own threshold of $19 million in uninsured damage before funds are released, he said.

“There have not been any state or federal declarations,” Cubbison said Monday.

If those thresholds are met, the funding process is not a quick one, he said.

“It literally takes months, but we are doing the work here at least on the front end,” he said.

Similar efforts are underway in other regional communities damaged by floodwaters.

And while officials work to address issues, others are looking to take advantage, state police warned.

“After a natural disaster occurs, many people rush to financially help those in need,” a state police news release reads. “Criminals lurk in the shadows of natural disaster and prey upon vulnerable individuals.”

That often comes in the form of donation scams, which encourage generous people to donate to fraudulent hurricane relief charities, police said. Officials recommended “research and planning to help ensure … donations are used to support the intended cause.”

Ultimately state police officials urged members of the public to “donate to charities you know and trust.”

Rain is to continue through this afternoon before breaking for sunny weather Wednesday and Thursday, Martin said, adding that temperatures could reach 80 or higher.

Rain may return Friday when a cold front reaches the area, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.