Even as Mayor Gabriel J. Campana tried to get financial assistance for flood-damaged property owners, evidence of city residents jumping into action Saturday during the height of flash flooding on city streets came Monday.
Campana's department heads were impressed by the number of people who leapt into action, some standing in waist-deep water and yanking out debris from catch basins on streets.
Homeowners defended what was theirs.
"We stood in waist-deep water," said Victoria Stillman, of 1087 Ravine Road.
She said she joined her 17-year-old in an attempt to unclog a storm drain and a 20-inch pipe filled with mud.
"It carries runoff water under the road to a storm sewer," Stillman said. "Once we removed the junk, water went right down. It might have been the reason for water rushing down onto Campbell Street."
People inundated City Hall Monday with calls for help, clearly unsure what insurance will cover. Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority has not received any reports of sewer backups or water-related problems, according to Doug Keith, authority executive director.
The impact on vehicles and property continued to be tallied Monday.
John Masten, of 1216 Locust St., said he was celebrating his birthday in Connecticut when he heard about the hard rain and drove home.
"The downstairs was flooded," he said. Another of Masten's cars was flooded, too.
City officials want to hear about the losses. They are recording them and putting them into a log that may help when calculating total loss for any potential financial assistance.
"We appreciate that," said city engineer John Grado.
He said it wasn't the older drains that was the root cause of the street flooding.
Instead, he claimed it was a combination of Thursday's thunderstorm leaving debris in the catch basins and the extreme downpour associated with Saturday's storm.
"You get that much rain in a short period and you are going to see flooding," Grado said.
City fire Assistant Chief Todd Heckman said mold removal steps should begin as soon as possible. Residents should fill buckets with soap and water and wash down their basement walls before mold begins to grow.
"This week is a mold-friendly one," he said.
Damage apparently is widespread, based on numerous telephone calls to Campana's office and the city Streets and Parks Department on Monday.
"I would estimate about three square miles of the city streets were under water," said Grado, who also serves as community and economic development director.
Grado said Grafius Run, north of Rural Avenue, and Spring Run in Newberry were problems.
Crews were out with a catch basin cleaning truck and have started to clear out both runs, he said.
Campana said he stayed up for several hours and drove around the city to evaluate the scope of the disaster.
He issued an executive order declaring parts of the city to be a disaster area and asked for financial assistance from state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport.
"That would come from Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency," Campana said, "if the state declares the city to be a disaster area."
City to remove yard waste
Yard waste associated with the storm, not carpeting or items inside a damaged house, will be removed by the city, Grado said.
Grado said washouts have eroded the berm and shoulder of Ravine Road and parts of Wildwood Boulevard. Crews spent the day cleaning up debris in Grafius Run and Spring Run, just off West Hills, he said.
Dewey Avenue at Apple Street in Newberry had water on it, Grado said. Damage also was reported on Third and Fourth avenues, he said.
Asked why the water stayed on the streets in the higher elevations of the city, such as those from Rural Avenue north, Grado said when that volume of water from that much rain in that short a period flows from the Grafius Run watershed and runs south, it creates a bowl effect.
"Water overcame the inlets and went overland," he said. "Storm sewers were at capacity as water came up through manhole covers. The city consists of little valleys, little rises that create a bowl or ponding effect on the streets."
When the water gets near houses and basements, especially stone or cement basements that are porous, water floods them.
City firefighters dealt with about 60 calls during the height of the storm and most were due to flooding, Heckman said.
Water will put out the pilot lights of those with gas heat, but the gas will shut off. Some odor is experienced when small amounts of gas are discharged.
The nine pumps that are part of the city flood protection system were able to work, but none of them had to be turned on because the river only rose by 1 1/2 feet, Grado said.
Overtime expenses for city employees could be recuperated if a disaster is declared by the state, Grado said.
"We truly care about our citizens and what they've gone through in the last few days," Campana said. "We're evaluating areas of the city to assist people with damaged items in their homes."