The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

September 8, 2011

1972 Agnes nightmare remembered in Milton

MILTON — Early predictions of a river crest 10 feet above the flood stage lessened as the day went on, but flooding in Milton sent workers home and prompted the Red Cross to set up a shelter at a school in Lewisburg.

Residents who remembered Agnes in 1972 said Thursday felt like a nightmare revisited.

North and South Front streets, and pockets throughout the borough, were covered in deep water, and police barricaded a number of roads, including from Filbert to Front Street.

According to borough manager Chuck Beck, North Front Street, north of Broadway, got the most water.

He said the water should start receding at 6 a.m. this morning.

Scott Jones, a laborer at Con-Agra along South Front Street, said he was notified Wednesday that the plant would be closed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, due to expected flooding.

Early in the morning, Union County emergency officials projected a crest of 29.5 feet in Lewisburg and Milton at 8 p.m.

GIS technician Matt Kalcich said such a level would cause water to flow to homes and businesses as far as Filbert and Arch streets.

According to Stan Hudson, emergency operations center manager, that was downgraded to 26.5 feet by late morning.

"That could still change," he admitted at noon. "Even with that decrease, we're still anticipating more roads that are going to be closed."

A number of evacuations occurred in Lewisburg and Milton during the designated state of disaster on Thursday.

Though these evacuations were not mandatory, emergency officials were telling those who chose to stay, "We wouldn't be coming back for you," Hudson said.

Protecting the public remains the police department's top priority.

"We want to keep everybody safe," Milton Mayor Ed Nelson said.

The river banks are slippery, he said, so stay away. And barricades are there for a reason.

Nelson said it was a blessing the projected crest level was reduced by Thursday afternoon.

"There are already enough people with flooded basements," he said.

"Thank goodness it wasn't any worse than it was."

Twenty-five people were staying at a Red Cross shelter at the Donald H. Eichhorn Middle School in Lewisburg on Thursday.

Miley Bandanza said she came up from Allentown Wednesday night in hopes she could coax her parents into evacuating their home on North Front Street before the waters rose to a dangerous level.

They had lived there since 1976, and it seemed they were set on waiting it out.

"They'll probably stay," she said, adding that the basement had already been flooded by Thursday morning.

Water had already reached the first floor of Crissy Smith's home on North Front Street by that time. She started preparing Wednesday morning, moving everything out of the first floor and to a relative's garage — and what she could, to the second floor.

In the 2004 flood, Smith had lived a few doors down, and they lost a washer and dryer. This time, she said, she wasn't taking any chances. She, her husband, and their four children were planning to stay at her in-law's home.

Sharon Frech, owner of the Milton Rock Gym on North Front Street, said Thursday morning, "We're kind of waiting it out."

However, she had plans to pull up their $15,000 in carpeting if water levels began to rise any further.

"It looks like '72," said co-owner of the gym, Jack Frech, who lived in Lewisburg when Agnes hit the area.

"This is one of the worst ones I've seen," echoed neighbor and owner of Elm Street Antiques, Scott Wiand. He had moved his inventory to the second floor of his business on Wednesday.

"We left last night because we weren't sure how high it was going to get," said Kayla Girton, a resident of a third-floor apartment right along the river on North Front Street. They were especially worried their cars would be ruined.

Girton has been staying at her mother's home in Lewisburg, but came to look at the property late Thursday morning.

"We're kind of afraid to come back yet," she said.

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