Tree branches and limbs, along with a significant amount of wood from the Lesnett Road roundabout project in Upper St. Clair, was scattered around McLaughlin Park and jammed into nearby creek-bed filter following last week’s flood, according to a borough report.
The lumber from the PennDOT project, along with other detritus, was apparently swept up by the rising creek water on Wednesday afternoon and quickly headed in the same direction that much Upper St. Clair-borne debris has in the past—straight toward Bridgeville. Two years ago, creek debris from USC and beyond contributed to the flood that killed one woman and devastated Bridgeville’s Baldwin Street corridor.
Fortunately, last week was different, thanks in part to some flood mitigation projects that Bridgeville introduced in the past year. On Wednesday, the loose lumber was snagged by the trash rack—Basically a large steel comb embedded in the creekbed, the trash rack is designed to stop large materials before they reach Bridgeville’s populated areas, clog up the narrow creek channels, and make bad flooding worse.
“[The trash rack] did a good job collecting a lot of debris that would have eventually bottled up down in town,” said Bridgeville borough manager Joe Kauer.
By design, the material stopped by the trash rack causes flooding at McLaughlin Park. That’s why the borough lowered the park’s ballfield by several feet last autumn. Last week was the most stress the system has yet seen.
Starting around 3 p.m., a thunderstorm dumped three inches of water on the area in about an hour. It took approximately 45 minutes before the ballfield/retention pond was full and the water spilled over onto the road, according to reports.
There was still flooding, obviously. By 4:10 p.m., police and firefighters were helping residents evacuate their homes on Baldwin Street and Carol Avenue. At the high point, the water on Baldwin Street reached between 1 to 2 feet.
By 4:40 p.m., the water started receding and cleanup efforts began. Firefighters helped residents pump out flooded basements while public works crews were scraping mud from streets and removing downed trees.
No residents were displaced, and most businesses and property owners reported no significant damage. The next day, cleanups continued as contractors cleaned storm sewers and removed downed trees around down. County Hauling provided Dumpsters that were were soon stuffed with trashbags and and items ruined by basement flooding.
After the 2019 flood, Bridgeville officials approached Upper St. Clair Township about working together to solve the downstream debris problem. But USC officials essentially said that it’s not a government issue—the responsibility falls to the owners of property through which the creek flows.
Bridgeville continues to pursue additional flood mitigation strategies, including working with FEMA to buy property from Baldwin Street residents and business owners who want to leave.
Here’s an abbreviated timeline of the flood. You can download the full borough emergency management report here:
WEDNESDAY, JULY 7, 2021
3 PM: A severe thunderstorm begins.
3:10 PM: Power goes out in parts of Bridgeville. Some traffic signals stop working and fire alarms begin sounding.
3:15 PM: Residents report trees down on Lesnett Road, McLaughlin Run Road and Darby Way. Bridgeville’s public works department calls in full crew to respond.
3:47 PM: The ballfield at McLaughlin Run Park, which was recently converted into a stormwater retention pond, is filled with water.
4:07 PM: Police chief Chad King reports that part of Baldwin Street is experiencing flooding. Nearby residents are evacuated.
4:10 PM: Borough manager Joe Kauer reports that Carol Avenue is beginning to flood, just down for the Bridgeville borough building. Public works employees begin moving equipment from the municipal building basement.
4:25 PM: Mayor Betty Copeland issues a disaster declaration.
4:40 PM: Baldwin Street floodwaters begin receding.
5:00 PM: Police, firefighters and borough officials meet to assess damage.
6:00 PM: Firefighters pump water from local basements while a public works crew scrapes mud off of Baldwin Street.
8:00 PM: An excavator clears large trees blocking McLaughlin Run at the Bower Hill bridge.
10:30 PM: After more than seven hours, firefighters clear the scene are all roads are reopened.
THURSDAY, JULY 8, 2021
7:00 AM: DPW with assistance of JetJack Vactor crews start cleaning catch basins.
7:15 AM: Manager requests two large 30-yard dumpsters from County Hauling to be placed on Baldwin Street for affect property owners. Dumpsters to be dropped off today.
8:00 AM: Department of Public Works starts hauling out trees and debris from the stream.