The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 8, 2011

Water ruins 3 houses in Lewisburg

LEWISBURG — Flooding in Lewisburg severely damaged at least three homes where Bucknell University students live on South Sixth Street, a university spokeswoman said.

Julia Ferrante said about 10 students were displaced from the street, much of which was under water from the campus to Market Street on Thursday afternoon. She said the homes were condemned.

Areas swamped

Meanwhile, other low-lying areas of the borough and surrounding area were swamped as residents and business owners removed items from their buildings. Many spent time walking the nonflooded streets, taking photographs and recalling 1972, when Hurricane Agnes caused the worst flooding borough residents have ever seen.

Amanda Smith, who lives on North Second Street, was in the parking lot at Hufnagle Park, which was created as a result of Agnes wiping out many of the homes that once stood where the park is. The park is named for Lewisburg Police Chief Gordon Hufnagle, who died trying to rescue a family from floodwaters.

Firefighters, police officers and borough public works crews were out evacuating people as early as 4 a.m., said Lewisburg Mayor Judy Wagner.

She and other borough officials were stationed at the borough's emergency operations center in the municipal building on South Fifth Street, where officials were expecting the West Branch of the Susquehanna River to crest at about 27 feet Thursday night.

Evacuation areas included sections of South Sixth, St. George, Mill, South Third and nearby streets. Also, water was topping Route 15 at St. Mary Street. Floods typically wash out Daniel Greene Field, off St. Mary, as well as the Lewisburg Area Recreation Authority Park at North 15th and St. Mary streets.

"We've had great communication with the county, with Bucknell University, and William Cameron (Engine Company) has been amazing," Mayor Wagner said.

Many of those evacuated along South Sixth Street were Bucknell students, she said.

Some, like Kim Chekan and Abby Thompson, were staying with friends who live on higher ground.

They were evacuated at 6 p.m. Wednesday as a precaution. They left for a friend's on South Seventh Street after moving mattresses to the second floor.

They wandered down St. Louis toward South Sixth, seeing their backyard was still under water.

"We wanted to see what it was like today," said Chekan, who is from North Carolina. "It's frustrating."

Said Thompson, "We're hoping for the best, at this point."

Others were being housed at the Elaine Langone Student Center and Kenneth Langone Fieldhouse, where cots, food and water were available, Ferrante said.

As a precaution, the college is evacuating several dorms in low-lying areas, especially the basements where electrical equipment could cause a problem.

In all, more than 1,100 students — about a third of the student body — were to be affected by the flooding. Classes were cancelled and only essential personnel were on duty, a rarity, Ferrante said.

"We're trying to make things as normal as possible," she said. "We're providing free pizza and ice cream and we'll be showing a movie."

In the student center, George Hickman, a junior from Philadelphia, was waiting with several of her friends after being told to leave their house on South Sixth.

"We weren't ready to get out," she said of the 5:30 a.m. evacuation. "We had 10 minutes to grab what we needed."

The water had not yet reached the structure, but they were moved as a precaution, she said.

"It's kind of an adventure," she said. "We're getting some homework done."

Meanwhile, across town there were sounds of generators and pumps as folks did what they could to stem the rising tide.

The back door of Zelda's Cafe was propped open, and a chain of young men carried out bags of food and canned goods, coffee makers and blenders, tables and chairs.

As the water from swollen Bull Run edged ever higher up St. Louis Street, the crew, led by Zelda's owner Scott Stieler, clad in hip waders, continued to bring out everything from the popular coffee shop.

"It's over a two feet deep in there," said John Gremer, Stieler's brothe- in-law, who was among those assisting in the move. "It's raised about a foot since we got here at 6 a.m."

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