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Area braces for heavy rains from Ida

Blair and surrounding counties are bracing for potential flash floods as meteorologists predict Tropical Storm Ida could dump 4 to 6 inches of rain and maybe more in some areas.

Ida, a category 4 hurricane when it hit landfall in Louisiana early Sunday afternoon, is expected to be a mostly rain event as it crosses central Pennsylvania this evening into Wednesday, according to Paul Walker, Accuweather senior meteorologist.

Some areas could receive up to

8 inches of rain from the storm, Walker said, but said it is difficult to pinpoint which areas.

According to a news release from the Wolf administration, rain is expected to begin late tonight in southwestern Pennsylvania and spread to the north and east throughout the day Wednesday into Thursday morning. The heaviest rain is expected Wednesday into Wednesday night.

The ground in the Altoona area is still saturated from recent rainstorms, including Tropical Storm Fred that dropped

3.6 inches of rain more than a week ago, Walker said.

That means the area will see “a lot more runoff than we’re accustomed to,” he said. He warned residents to be on the lookout for localized flooding.

Mark Taylor, director of emergency services for Blair County, said he is concerned for the Williamsburg and Frankstown areas.

“These are areas that have flooded in the past, which is why we’re keeping a particularly close eye on them, especially since the ground is already saturated,” Taylor said.

Williamsburg Mayor Ted Hyle is also worried about the impending rainfall.

According to Hyle, it is hard to prepare for a deluge of rain, although the town is making sure its drainage is clear. He added that some residents are putting out sandbags to protect their homes.

“We can’t do anything until we can figure out what to do with our runoff and that’s an ongoing project,” Hyle said.

The Wolf administration said Monday that state agencies are monitoring conditions and are ready to support counties in need.

Taylor said Blair County’s emergency services have been preparing for Ida.

The county’s swift water rescue team is ready, Taylor said, and the water level of Lakemont dam has been lowered so it can accept more runoff.

The county is also providing all municipalities with regular updates and have put out notifications to all local emergency management coordinators, whose responsibility it is to make sure storm drains are clear, Taylor said.

Walker said that tornadoes can’t be ruled out with Ida, although it depends on where the exact center of the storm passes through.

After the storm passes, the area should feel a drop in the humidity levels, he said.

“During the rain, it’s going to feel pretty sticky and damp,” Walker said. “Then we should see cooler air coming in for the end of the week.”

According to the Wolf administration, once the storm exits the state, drier and more seasonal conditions should follow, enabling state, county and local authorities to conduct damage assessments and begin cleanup operations.

“This storm has left more than a million people without power and caused catastrophic flooding in the south,” said Gov. Tom Wolf in a news release. “We’ve seen what this storm can do, and we all need to do everything we can to be ready for whatever it might bring to Pennsylvania.”

Altoona Mirror Staff Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.

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