WILLIAMSPORT, Pa.—Emergency crews were monitoring a pipeline that ruptured during a freak storm in Pennsylvania, anxiously waiting to see if nearly 55,000 gallons of gasoline would reach drinking water supplies serving thousands of residents.
The storm early Friday dumped up to 7 inches of rain on 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.
Another quarter-inch of rain had fallen by Friday night.
The flooding caused a Sunoco Logistics gasoline pipeline to rupture, spilling an estimated 54,600 gallons into a tributary of the Loyalsock Creek and threatening the local water supply.
Sunoco Logistics said crews were using skimmers to remove gasoline from impacted waterways and erecting containment booms downstream.
The state Department of Environmental Protection said Friday night the pipeline area was difficult for staff and equipment to reach and it was working with transportation officials to safely access it. The DEP said it would wait until the water receded to locate where the break took place, but that might not happen until sometime Saturday.
Pennsylvania American Water late Friday shut down its treatment plant along the Susquehanna River in Milton, downstream of the spill, as a precaution. It said the DEP had warned that a gasoline plume was nearing the vicinity.
The company said it expects to have adequate water supplies by redirecting water from another treatment plant and using water it has stored. Customers have been asked to conserve water.
Two other water systems, serving customers in Sunbury and Shamokin Dam, also are potentially impacted by the spill, according to the state environmental officials.
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.
Winds there reached up to 100 mph, said National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Evanego.
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.