Ida rains break over the region

by Walt Maguire
Posted 9/4/21

Flash flooding temporarily closed I-76 West (Schuylkill Expressway)and sections of Lincoln and Kelly Drives until until Friday. Part of the Vine Street Expressway reopened Saturday. Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy escaped the most severe flooding. Manayunk did not.

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Ida rains break over the region

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The flooding from Ida hit the region on Wednesday, September 1, with the Schuykill and Delaware rivers cresting Thursday. The Schuykill crested at 16.5 feet, not quite breaking the previous record of 17 feet.

Crust Vegan Bakery, at 4409 Main St. in Manayunk, was one of many businesses affected. “We closed early Wednesday evening to make sure our staff would get home safe in the daylight,” said Meagan Benz, co-owner. “We came in early Thursday morning to find our basement filled three feet with water and rising, everything floating like the titanic. We luckily were able to get a plumber out within a couple of hours to begin pumping the water out of the basement, which until about mid-day didn't make much of a difference since the river was still on the rise.” They pumped for ten hours and were repairing and cleaning through the holiday weekend.

City buildings were closed Thursday, and the Philadelphia School District announced public schools with a start time of 8:30 or later would open two hours late – which was announced almost an hour after the 8:30 start time. The schools were on a virtual platform Friday, as several school buildings were under repair and many roads remained unpassable. Flash flooding temporarily closed I-76 West (Schuylkill Expressway) until Friday, but sections of Lincoln and Kelly Drives remained closed until the weekend.

Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy escaped the most severe flooding, though the traffic detoured from the Lincoln Drive and I-76 made driving slow.

Dramatic news footage of Manayunk showed flooding creeping up Main St., covering automobiles. The Belmont water pump on the Schuykill was flooded, though drinking water in the area was not affected. Wednesday night, tornadoes were reported in Montgomery County; there was a total seven tornadoes in the region. Chestnut Hill College lost power for less than an hour at the height of the storm Wednesday; Thursday night, PECO still reported 470 outages affecting almost 20,000 customers, including  Erdenheim and Lafayette Hill.

At a press conference September 3, Mayor Kenney and the Office of Emergency Management asked residents to report non-emergency storm damage using the Damage Survey form at phila.gov/departments/oem/

Kenney pointed out the need to plan for continuing, increasing climate events. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) said he will offer any assistance the city requests, and pointed out the upcoming federal infrastructure bill would address some of the issues the storm brought. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA02) remarked that “The Vine Street Expressway is now the Vine Street River.” He went to remark that, as a lifelong Philadelphian, he had never had to shelter in the basement for a tornado alert, and had now done it twice in six weeks. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA-3rd) thanked city workers, saying “They do the work. It’s our job to fight for the resources.”

By Tuesday most roads were opened, though cleanup operations were still ongoing.   Trash collection is expected to be impacted, since city workers are occupied cleaning up the damage.

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