Canadian Underwriter

Pennsylvania flooding ruptures pipeline, washes out bridge

October 24, 2016   by Megan Trimble And Mark Scolforo - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – There has been little impact to the water supply so far from a ruptured pipeline during a freak storm in Pennsylvania that sent nearly 55,000 gallons of gasoline into a creek tributary, officials said Saturday.

But authorities are continuing to monitor the water supplies that serve thousands of residents around Williamsport.

A storm late Thursday into Friday dumped up to 7 inches of rain on areas in western and central Pennsylvania, triggering mudslides, turning roads into rivers and sweeping away at least two homes. Hundreds more were damaged in Centre County, home to Penn State’s main campus. One man was killed when a tree crashed into his home.

The flooding caused an 8-inch Sunoco Logistics pipeline that carries gasoline, diesel and home heating oil to rupture, spilling an estimated 54,600 gallons of gasoline into a tributary of the Loyalsock Creek. The creek runs into the west branch of the Susquehanna River, but the company said Saturday that “no petroleum-related compounds” had been detected in the river.

Sunoco Station

“We don’t have any indication that water supplies have been affected at this point, but we’ll continue to monitor that,” said Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeff Shields, who said the company was working with state and federal environmental departments.

Crews have deployed skimmers to try to pick up gasoline from the surface of the water and booms to contain and absorb it.

“But we really haven’t found much of the product so far,” he said. “There was a lot of water that came down that night.”

Crews are waiting for the water to recede and expose the pipe so they can access it and formulate a repair plan, he said. A bridge at the site of the spill was completely washed out. The exact cause of the release is under investigation.

Air quality is also being monitored, and no hazardous levels have been detected “although gasoline odours remain in certain areas,” Shields said.

The overnight deluge occurred in an extremely narrow band, said meteorologist Mike Dangelo, of the National Weather Service office in State College.

“One side of town, State College and its northern and western developments, had 7 to 8 inches … while the southern end of town down into Boalsburg to the southeast barely had an inch,” he said.

Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the state’s National Guard to help in the recovery efforts after the storm left a trail of destruction stretching 150 miles. The toll included downed power lines, destroyed vehicles and damaged railroad beds.

The (Lock Haven) Express reported a popular retired teacher was killed Thursday night in Clinton County when a tree crashed into his home. The man had been on the second floor and was tossed from his home by the impact, landing on his back in the driveway.

About 100 residents were forced from their homes in the Bald Eagle Valley, including about three dozen residents of a personal care home, Centre County Commissioner Steven Dershem said.

In hard-hit Lycoming County, emergency crews used boats to help residents from their homes and survey the damage to roads and bridges.

Firefighters banged on doors in Old Lycoming Township near Williamsport, evacuating residents in the middle of the night.

“We thought nothing was going to happen, then all of a sudden, a few minutes later, the whole road was covered in water,” resident Brent Getger told WNEP-TV.

The storm took most residents by surprise.

Mark Collister was trapped in his Old Lycoming Township mobile home Thursday night when a stream spilled chocolate-colored water from its banks and blocked the road.

“We knew we were going to get the rainstorm, but not as quick as it was,” he said.

Jim Heverly, who lives less than 50 feet from Lycoming Creek and was forced to evacuate, called it the worst flood to hit his neighbourhood in more than a decade.

At least one bridge across the Loyalsock Creek in Montoursville was wiped out, according to Ruth Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

Trimble reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania contributed to this report.

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