Flooding from Tropical Storm Lee came so fast that many people found themselves stranded, without a safe route to get home.
At the flooding's height, 250 roads closed throughout six of the state Department of Transportation local
office's nine counties. When the waters receded, $54 million in damages remained.
Work progresses on a new Slabtown Bridge over Loyalsock Creek, shown from above in this photo taken last week. Flood waters one year ago took out the old span, which has created an inconvenience for many who rely on that crossing. The new bridge is on track for completion by Thanksgiving.
Before Lee's remnants hit here, PennDOT was monitoring the storm's path. It tracked the storm as it came off Florida and stalled off the East Coast, said Justin Blakeney, assistant district executive for construction. At the time of the flooding, Blakeney was the assistant district executive for maintenance.
"Whenever there's a major weather-related event, we start preparing at least two days in advance," Blakeney said.
That preparation included planning for the worst-case scenarios, looking at assets and listing which bridges had high waters before the flooding and were more likely to flood if the rain hit - which it did.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: One year ago, areas of Lycoming County were devastated by flooding spawned by Tropical Storm Lee. Sun-Gazette reporters and photographers recently revisited the flooded areas to see how far Lee's victims have come since then.)
"It rained and it rained and it rained," Blakeney said.
It is impossible to know how much rain really will come before any storm hits, he said. The area predictions were for 6 to 12 inches. Just a day before the storm hit, it was expected to go too far east to affect much.
"It tracked farther west," Blakeney said. "We got the lion's share."
Tucked away in the PennDOT district headquarters, 715 Jordan Ave., is an incident room, which has an around-the-clock schedule that goes into effect when a disaster strikes.
During last year's flooding, for nearly a week, employees were in the incident room 24 hours a day. They took calls about flooded roads that needed to be closed and planned detours around them.
More than three dozen employees were affected by the flooding and the majority of them continued to come into work by staying in hotels, Rick Mason, public information officer, said.
Employees from outside of the local PennDOT District 3 came in to help.
"It was just a phenomenal effort our people put forth early on," Mason said.
Yet the work did not finish when the water receded. Damages had to be assessed and rebuilding had to begin.
Damage-assessment teams were sent out as early as the second day of flooding. Manpower and equipment from other districts, people from the central office and some retirees formed teams and gathered data and reported it back to the district office.
In about a week, the district completed flood-damage assessments on more than 1,700 state bridges and 3,000 miles of state roadway.
In the first two weeks of recovery, more than three dozen emergency contracts were in the works. Some had already gone to construction and were completed. Work was underway at more than 50 other locations.
Through the following weeks and months, the department forces restored some 1,500 damaged sites. About 97 percent of the damaged sites are now completed, including three bridges: Route 487 in Lopez in Sullivan County, Route 1029 near North Rome and Route 4033 near Soper Hollow, both in Bradford County.
Of the eight remaining bridges, six are expected to finish this year and two next year.
One of the larger bridges still to be finished is the Slabtown Bridge.
The bridge, about four miles north of Montoursville, was put on an expedited replacement schedule to open the new bridge to traffic by Thanksgiving.
An underwater inspection concluded the damage was too extensive for reuse of any part of the bridge and the old span was removed.
The new bridge is estimated to cost about $3 million, Mason said.
Another project is the Route 864 slide repair, east of Farragut.
The original scope of the project was to fix the slide area.
During construction, additional slide areas developed and the extent of the repairs had to be extended. The length of the repair originally was about 400 feet and has since been extended by about 250 more feet, Mason said.
PennDOT hopes to reopen the road to traffic later this month, according to Mason.