Flooding plagues Juniata Valley

LEWISTOWN – Juniata Valley residents were submerged in flood waters after a batch of storms and thunderstorms ripped through the area Thursday afternoon into Friday morning.

Throughout the storm event both Mifflin and Juniata counties had localized flooding from small creeks and the Juniata River. Allen Weaver, Director of Juniata County Emergency Management, said the heavy rain saturated the ground and caused wide spread flash flooding and small stream flooding.

“The precipitation amounts range from 3.5 to 4.5 inches, throughout Juniata County,” Weaver said. “PennDOT has been helping clear the roadways.”

Authorities said there was one report of a person falling into the creek near Standard Steel. Rescue crews worked the scene looking for the person, but it was later discovered that the call was a hoax, with the crews finding no evidence of a body. The storm also left many without power during the evening, with most having power restored before 6 a.m. Friday morning.

Between the two counties 53 roads were closed, for reasons ranging from water on roads to drifted debris from the water. Mifflin County Public Safety Director Phil Lucas said several different groups helped to evaluate the roads in Mifflin County.

“Depending on location in the county residents saw anywhere between five and six inches of rain. To assist us with evaluating roads, we had PennDOT, local National Guard and fire departments,” Lucas said. “Many of the departments have been out doing public service calls since early this (Friday) morning.”

In fact the Mifflin County Emergency Communications Center in a four hour period had more than 60 calls, during the heaviest part of the storm. Fire departments were helping residents in a variety of ways. Some were pumping water out of the basements of homes and businesses, while others were performing rescues with their boats. Weaver said one of these occurred on Smith Road in Juniata County.

“Our communications center dispatched Mifflin County Boat Rescue 15, Junction Fire Company, to help a stranded motorist at around 5 a.m. Friday,” Weaver explained. “We also had to dispatch the fire department and a boat crew to the Tuscarora Creek Campground for a woman who was trapped in her camper, which was surrounded by water.”

Other effects of the storm included two-hour delays for both the Mifflin County and Juniata County school districts. Parents of students in Mifflin County received an alert through the Skylert system stating if any student was absent Friday due to flooding and road closures they would be granted an excused absence from school.

As of 4 p.m. Friday many of the roads closed in the Juniata Valley were opening up because water levels were receding. Lucas said many of the roads that had been closed in Mifflin County were open or would soon be open. As of 4 p.m., Parcheytown Road at Kish Pike continuing to be closed until Monday.

“We need to have the bridge inspected,” Lucas said. “The creek and rain could have caused some structural damage.”

In Juniata County it was the same, with many of the 36 roads being opened Friday afternoon. Runoff water from the mountains and hills throughout the Juniata Valley could still cause some small creeks and rivers to peak. As of 4 p.m. Friday, the Juniata River had a water height of 15.14 feet, according to the National Weather Service, located in State College. According to the graph, the water level was still rising at that time. Both Weaver and Lucas urged drivers to remain cautious even though the roads were opening.

“There could still be some water on the roads,” Lucas said. “There could still be mud or debris fields sliding down big hills because the ground is so saturated.”

The flood stage level of the Juniata River is 23 feet. NWS expected the river to crest at 2 a.m., today at a height of 15.8 feet.

Tuscarora Creek in Juniata County did exceed flood stage, according to the NWS website which listed the creek at 15.99 feet as of 9 p.m. Friday. Flood stage for the Tuscarora is 10 feet.

Rain showers finished early Friday morning, but townships and residents are still cleaning up from the downpours that occurred throughout the evening. Residents are reminded to take care and avoid roads that may still have flooding, and report any flooded roads to the township office or county communications office.

***Sentinel reporters Kiernan Schalk and Kim Hayes and Lifestyles editor Jane Mort contributed to this story.***