Worse than Hurricane Agnes.
That was the consensus Thursday of Lycoming County officials faced with destruction wrought by flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee.
Most of that destruction was focused in the eastern part of the county.
Route 973 now ends abruptly at the Slabtown Bridge, where a raging Loyalsock Creek has washed away the roadway and part of the bridge.
A farm between Williamsport and Montoursville is inudated with floodwaters Thursday morning.
"The water levels, especially on Loyalsock and Muncy creeks, exceeded levels from Agnes," said John Yingling, director of the county Department of Public Safety.
Lycoming County Commissioner Jeff C. Wheeland agreed.
"It appears everything east of the Market Street Bridge in Lycoming County is worse than Agnes," Wheeland said.
"We had record levels of flooding in Montoursville, with flood levels above Agnes, Ivan and the flood of '96," said county Transportation Planner Mark Murawski. "Loyalsock Creek has gone up higher than anything we've seen in recorded history."
"It clobbered the eastern part of the county pretty hard," said Philip Petter, a volunteer with the Northcentral Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross.
While it is believed damage caused by flooding will be extensive, the exact level of it will not be revealed until a detailed assessment can be made, Yingling said.
"We are just beginning damage assessment," he said.
"A lot of the roads are still underwater," Murawski said. "It's been an unprecedented event."
There were no fatalities and no serious injuries reported, Yingling said.
"There were some people transported to medical facilities either for evaluation or treatment for hypothermia," he said.
The assessment will be broken into two categories: Public, such as roads, bridges and other infrastructure; and private, such as homes and businesses, Yingling said.
Some of the damage was clearly evident. The western portion of the Route 973 bridge spanning Loyalsock Creek in Upper Fairfield Township collapsed.
The railroad bridge spanning Loyalsock Creek in the Borough of Montoursville is in bad enough shape that it probably will never be used again, according to William Kelly, deputy director of the county Department of Planning and Community Development.
A Plunketts Creek Township resident said portions of roadway on Route 87 north of the 973 bridge has been washed out and large numbers of people along that road are without electricity.
"It is crumbled and fallen in, including the berm on both sides (of the road)," she said. "It's just so devastating. The guard rail - the whole thing - was just pushed to one side. It's unbelievable. Power lines are hanging."
"(Route) 87 is a problem because, for the most part, it doesn't have a parallel route," Murawski said. "It is unknown when that access will be opened."
The City of Williamsport sustained no reportable flood damage, city police Chief Gregory Foresman said.
"People can be very thankful they have a levee system that seems to work very well," Foresman said.
According to Foresman, six bridges spanning Lycoming Creek from the city limits to the mouth of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River will need to be inspected once the water recedes.
On Wednesday, the Red Cross opened eight emergency shelters in the county. Three of them already were closed by Thursday afternoon.
The remaining open shelters, as of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, were: Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Montoursville; Ward Meyers Elementary School, Muncy; Eldred Township Fire Co., Warrensville; Round Hill School, Old Lycoming Township; and Plunketts Creek Volunteer Fire Co., Barbours.
The Red Cross provides prepackaged shelter kits, along with cots, blankets and meals, Petter said.
According to information provided by the local chapter, preliminary recovery projections will exceed Hurricane Agnes flood recovery costs, making the disaster the most expensive in chapter history.
About 340 people have used the shelters, though that does not necessarily reflect the number of people who have been evacuated from their homes, said Yingling.
Some evacuees are staying with friends or relatives or made other living arrangements, he said.
Commercial air service at the Williamsport Regional Airport has been temporarily suspended, not because of flooding, but because the instrument landing system is not working, Murawski said. The airport is open for general aviation.
The impact of the flooding is going to be felt for a long time, Murawski said.
"Life is going to change here for a while," he said. "People are going to have to show patience, good judgment and caution."
Those who want to donate to the local Red Cross chapter to help with recovery costs may do so payable to NCPA Chapter, 320 E. Third St., Williamsport PA 17701-5313.