Pounding rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ida triggered a flood that sent water pouring into 37 residential basements and 19 businesses in Bridgeville’s Baldwin Street corridor early Wednesday morning.
Starting around 5:30 a.m., water began rising on Baldwin Street. Twenty minutes later, police and firefighters were evacuating residents and closing streets.
The flooding continued for several hours. At approximately 8 a.m., first responders deployed a boat to rescue a person trapped in a car.
By 10:30 a.m, the water had mostly receded. Borough officials started a door-to-door damage assessment, firefighters were pumping out basements, and public works employees started scraping mud from the streets. Residents and businessowners—many of whom have become familiar with this routine—began once again cleaning up their properties
There were no injuries, and nobody was permanently displaced, according to the borough’s event summary. Residential damage was limited to basements, although some businesses reported first-floor flooding.
Approximately 5.5 inches of rain fell on Bridgeville that morning. By comparison, the July storm that triggered evacuations and a much shorter flood on Baldwin Street was the result of 3 inches of rain.
On Thursday morning, the McLaughlin creek trashrack was still stuffed with tree branches that collected during the flood. The ballfield/retention pond was muddy and littered with debris, including a rusty wheelbarrow and other man-made items that flowed downstream toward Bridgeville.
Although the trashrack and other recently-introduced flood mitigation measures are helping to reduce the damage caused by floods, borough officials know that there is more to be done.
Given the borough’s topography, the most realistic way to prevent the same buildings from being flooded over and over again might to be remove those buildings.
As part of a program to help residents who want to leave the Baldwin Street corridor, FEMA is giving Bridgeville $1.2 million to buy eight flood-prone properties at pre-2018 flood valuations. The buildings will be demolished and turned into greenspace.
The application window for that program closed two years ago, but residents who said no the first time may get another chance. Borough officials may launch a second round of applications for people who have since changed their mind.
And then in August, borough council voted to approve the first phase of what could be a large-scale, transformational flood control initiative. This multi-stage project could cost upwards of $20 million and would reshape at least part of Baldwin Street.
Don’t expect groundbreaking anytime soon, though. In the short term, the borough is focused on identifying and applying for all of the grant money it can find.
“It’s something that in a couple years, if we keep to it, I think it’s possible,” said borough manager Joe Kauer.
Bridgeville’s engineer gave an in-depth presentation about the project at the July planning commission meeting.