High water starts receding after days of flooding in central Pa.

Written by Mark Scolforo/Associated Press | Jul 27, 2018 5:11 AM
Flooding Duke Street in Hummelstown

Swatara Creek covers Duke Street in Hummelstown on July 25, 2018. (Lisa Wardle/WITF)

*This story has been updated*

(Hummelstown) --  Floodwaters began to recede in central Pennsylvania on Thursday, leaving behind a film of mud and headaches for motorists trying navigate around dozens of roads closed to traffic.

Skies were clear after five days of downpours that brought a foot of rain or more to a swath of Pennsylvania from York County along the Maryland line to the Williamsport region in the north. Thunderstorms are forecast for Friday.

Residents along the Swatara Creek in Hummelstown said it crested about 2 a.m. The Hersheypark amusement park just upstream remained closed but was expected to reopen Friday.

"This is a disaster," said medical school professor Arun Das as he photographed the Swatara Creek not far from his home, ticking off the major roads that remained impassible. "Grandview, closed, Route 39, closed, 740, closed."

A few blocks away, retired government contractor Rick Flage, whose home borders the stream, said the waters were about 9 feet lower than after the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, which ruined several of his neighbors' homes in 2011.

"We just have to clean up," Flage said Thursday. "No big deal -- we have plenty of time."

At least three deaths have been attributed to the storm. The Adams County coroner said an 18-year-old who was missing since Sunday was likely stranded by high water in the Biglerville area, then was swept away when he attempted to get out of his van and walk.

Three days after 19-year-old Laura Olweiler went missing while trying to cross the flooded Conewago Creek with a relative, state police say a woman's body has been found.

Police are stopping short of saying the deceased is Olweiler until the Lancaster County Coroner conducts an autopsy and looks at dental records, said spokeswoman Trooper Megan Frazer. 

Conewago Creek flooding

Conewago Creek flows under Koser Road in Conewago Township. Crews are searching for Laura Olweiler of Elizabethtown after she was swept downstream. (Brett Sholtis/WITF News)

Fewer than 10 people showed up Wednesday at a Red Cross shelter at Hershey High School, mostly for a meal and shower, but one family spent the night, said disaster program specialist Kam Kobeissi. The Red Cross closed the shelter by lunchtime Thursday.

A spokesman for Dauphin County said officials were working with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to determine the extent of property damage.

Officials said about 120 state roads were still closed and about 3,000 Pennsylvanians were without power. Most National Guard troops were taken off flood response, with the exception of a single high-water vehicle.

In Tremont, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) northeast of Harrisburg, floodwaters caused catastrophic damage to the American Legion Post building, and a Family Dollar store was expected to be closed for a week after getting several inches of water, the Pottsville Republican Herald reported. A collapsed road in Tower City opened up a 5-foot hole.

The popular Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park, a trek marked by steep waterfalls, was badly damaged by the rain and closed to the public indefinitely.

A retaining wall along the Codorus Creek gave way at a major bridge in York City, closing a lane of traffic. Officials blamed it on the heavy rains.

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