Torrential rains sparked widespread flooding and havoc throughout Delaware County for part of the day Monday, with raging waters in at least one town followed by some white-knuckle dramas and life-saving heroics.
In Upper Darby, police Superintendent Michael Chitwood was crediting the joint efforts of an unknown civilian, and four public works employees for saving the life of rookie Patrolman Travis Hall, who was nearly swept into a sewer at the height of the deluge, about 10 a.m.
Meanwhile, late Monday afternoon police declared a state of emergency in Darby Borough. Several streets were closed and fire company personnel were using a ladder truck to rescue residents who found themselves trapped in their homes amid rising water.
Delaware County Emergency Services Director Timothy Boyce was in Darby Borough about 4:30 p.m., at which time he said about 100 people had been evacuated so far, and about 20 people were being sheltered by the Red Cross at borough hall.
At that point, Boyce said three drones were being utilized to assess damages.
According to Boyce, county dispatchers began receiving calls early in the day, with 1,200 emergency calls recorded between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. – double that of a normal day.
Boyce said there were about 50 separate water rescues throughout the county, with several initially occurring in the Radnor and Haverford areas as the pounding rain began falling during the morning rush.
There was some flooding reported in Chester, as well as near the Boeing plant on Route 291 in Ridley, among other areas in the county, he said.
Facebook posts described weather-related incidents in Newtown, Marple, Lansdowne and Upper Chichester, to name a few. Homes were flooded, and there was mayhem on roads across the county and region.
At one point water was reported up to the windshield level of cars along Marshall Road in Upper Darby, a frequent flooding problem area during heavy rains. Upper Darby police were reported making several water rescues, according to Twitter and Facebook.
According to Chitwood, Officer Hall was helping a stranded motorist at Copley and Marshal roads when he was walking toward the Auto Zone store.
“There was a sewer outlet he didn’t see … his legs were swept from underneath him and he went under water, and partly into the sewer,” Chitwood said of the 23-year-old officer, who joined the force a little over a year ago.
“An unknown guy grabbed his arm and pulled him,” Chitwood said, adding that the civilian was quickly assisted by four Upper Darby Public Works employees, Joe Pietrantonio, T.J. Hanson, Fran Long Jr. and Zach Lithgow.
“Had it not been for the five of them, he’d be dead. He would have drowned,” Chitwood said, noting the officer was treated at Delaware County Memorial Hospital for bruising and other minor injuries and later released.
About the same time as the Hall rescue, an elderly woman stranded in a minivan at Marshall and Ashton roads was being pulled from harm’s way, according to Chitwood.
He said two Ashton Road residents, William Boduo and Darius Shanko, tied three bed sheets together and, with the assistance of township Officers Rob Bennett, Amanda Shepard and Lt. Steve Oreskovich, formed “a human chain” and pulled the woman to safety.
Chitwood also credited Bennett and Oreskovich for saving a 9-year-old girl who was in rising waters, about 20 yards from where the woman was stranded in the minivan.
According to Chitwood, four areas of the township were flooded out, including Normandy and Marshall; Grace and Marshall; 69th Street and Marshall Road; areas where he described water as 5 to 6 feet high. The fourth area was Long Lane at Grace Street.
“It was raging waters,” Chitwood said. “In my tenure here I’ve seen flooding, but I’ve never seen it flood like that.”
When the rain subsided, Chitwood said public works employees were able to clear debris from the sewers, allowing the water to recede.
“By around one o’clock, it was back to normal,” Chitwood said.
After the flood, Magisterial District Judge Christopher R. Mattox presided over a wedding in his courtroom in Upper Darby.
“The show must go on,” Mattox shared on Facebook, offering his congratulations to the happy couple after what he called “a little rain delay.”
“Turn around, don’t drown,” was the hash tag for the day as police and fire departments cautioned motorists to avoid ponding water.
According to the South Media Fire Company: Six inches of fast moving water can knock over and carry away an adult; 12 inches of water can sweep away a small passenger car; and 18 to 24 inches of water can sweep away a sport utility vehicle.
Several authorities used social media to report flooding conditions, with roads impassable. Water rescues were reported in many locations on Route 202 in Norristown and King of Prussia.
Police reported several water rescues on the Schuylkill Expressway, between Route 202 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It was closed in both directions at Valley Forge.
State police reported multiple accidents and stranded vehicles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, again in particular in the area between King of Prussia and Downingtown. The Turnpike was shut down for several hours in King of Prussia before reopening about 10:30 a.m.
Philadelphia International Airport warned travelers to check their website at phl.org for possible delays on arrivals and departures.
SEPTA was using shuttle buses for parts of the Norristown High-Speed Line as well as the Route 102 Trolley in the Darby-Collingdale areas because of flooding.
In Delaware, two children were reported rescue from a car in flood waters about 7 a.m. at the Centerville Road Ramp to the Kirkwood Highway near Prices Corner.
A flash flood watch remained in effect for most of the region as of press time.
Here’s the full forecast from the National Weather Service:
Monday Night: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly before 10 p.m. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 70. Light and variable wind. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
Tuesday: A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 86. West wind 3 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40 percent. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.
Tuesday Night: A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms before 10 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 69. West wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20 percent.
Wednesday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 90. West wind around 8 mph.