Crawford County’s emergency management officials are hoping the weather takes a turn for the better today — and so should the residents of Meadville’s Fifth Ward and other creekside communities. The message is simple: Prepare for the worst along rain- and runoff-swollen French Creek.

With two large mobile home parks and a half dozen blocks of neighborhoods, flood-prone Fifth Ward has seen more than its share of flooding problems and evacuations over the years, and today through Thursday could produce more of the same.

If the Cleveland-based National Weather Service’s predictions are correct, low-lying areas around French Creek may flood, as showers and thunderstorms move through the already-saturated northwest Pennsylvania region.

The NWS issued a flood warning for the French Creek area in Meadville on Tuesday, and a flood watch remains in effect until Thursday for the rest of Crawford County, according to Allen W. Clark, emergency management director for Crawford County Office of Emergency Services. The weather service predicts that two to three inches of rainfall would be possible by this morning, causing flooding in low-lying areas around the county.

At press time Tuesday, French Creek’s water level was approaching 10 feet feet at the Mercer Street bridge. The weather service predicted the creek would crest at 15.2 feet this afternoon and likely will stay at that level until Thursday afternoon.

Flood stage for French Creek at Meadville is 14 feet, according to the weather service.

At 15 feet, according to the weather service, floodwaters reach Columbia Avenue, Race Street and Rogers Ferry Road. Residents of Asbury Manor East and West mobile home parks are impacted. Located along Cussewago Creek in Fifth Ward, those parks are less than a half-mile from the already-swollen French Creek. The big creek’s tributaries, such as the sometimes-mighty Cussewago and the smaller Spring Run, “are already being filled to flood stage,” Clark said Tuesday evening. Other low-lying areas of Fifth Ward can also be affected by flooding at the 14-foot creek mark, Clark said.

At 15 feet, the weather service reports that Bicentennial Park on Mead Avenue is also flooded and water may also impact traffic at the French Creek Parkway near Park Avenue.

“We really won’t see it (flooding) in the morning,” Clark predicted, “but quite likely toward noon and into Thursday morning is when the worst is possible. It depends on the area. Quite likely, some people will evacuate or choose to go with family or friends if they think they need to, because they’ve been through these situations before. Flooding is the number one (natural) emergency that residents face in Crawford County.” Today’s possible events “should come as no surprise,” he added.

City fire officials contacted Tuesday night estimated there are about 70 to 80 occupied units in the Asbury parks and about 500 to 700 residents in all of Fifth Ward. In a similar flood last spring, about 15 residences were easily evacuated by their occupants while routes were still open, especially along Fifth Ward’s Columbia Avenue, but several people had to be helped from their Asbury homes by firefighters. Evacuation centers were not used to anywhere near the extent they were set up for, but preparations can be quickly put in place to help hundreds of people if necessary, firefighters said.

“We’ve planned and prepared, so all we can do now is monitor,” Clark added. “We’ve received plenty of warning ahead of time (from NWS). It’s not going to hit with the magnitude it has in some recent past flooding, but conditions are probable that some problems could occur, and people just need to keep watching and listening to advisories.”

Clark said local emergency units have not been contacted yet. “We’re offering all the information we have through the media and as public announcements” until updated information becomes available today. “We will send out news releases (Tuesday) morning if anything happens,” Clark said.

Clark urges local residents to make sure family emergency plans are updated and a disaster kit ready in the event evacuation is required. Residents should monitor local TV, radio and Internet news sources for the latest information on the severe weather and what emergency precautions to take, he said.



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Here’s the Crawford County Office of Emergency Service’s detailed how-to list of what to do in event of floods and flash floods:

n Before a flood

Find out if you live in a flood-prone area from your local emergency management office. Ask whether your property is above or below the flood stage water level and learn about the history of flooding for your region. Learn flood-warning signs and your community alert signals. Request information on preparing for floods and flash floods.

If you live in a frequently flooded area, stockpile emergency building materials including plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, hammer, saw, pry bar, shovels and sandbags.

Have check valves installed in building sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing up in sewer drains. As a last resort, use large corks or stoppers to plug showers, tubs, or basins.

Plan and practice an evacuation route. Contact the local emergency management office for a copy of the community flood evacuation plan. This plan should include information on the safest routes to shelters. Individuals living in flash flood areas should have several alternative routes.

Have disaster supplies on hand (i.e. flashlights and extra batteries; portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries; a first aid kit and manual; emergency food and water; non-electric can opener; essential medicines; cash and credit cards; and sturdy shoes.

Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during floods or flash floods (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

Also, make sure that all family members know how to respond after a flood or flash flood. Teach all family members how and when to turn off gas, electricity, and water. Teach children how and when to call 911, police and fire departments, and which radio station to tune to for emergency information. Learn about the National Flood Insurance Program. Ask your insurance agent about flood insurance. Homeowners policies do not cover flood damage.

n During a flood watch

Listen to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information. Fill bathtubs, sinks, and jugs with clean water in case water becomes contaminated. Bring outdoor belongings, such as patio furniture, indoors. Move valuable household possessions to the upper floors or to safe ground if time permits. If you are instructed to do so by local authorities, turn off all utilities at the main switch and close the main gas valve. Be prepared to evacuate.

n During a flood

If you’re indoors, turn on a battery-operated radio or television to get the latest emergency information and gather your pre-assembled emergency supplies. If told to leave, do so immediately.

If you’re outdoors, climb to high ground and stay there. Avoid walking through any floodwaters. If it’s moving swiftly, even water six inches deep can sweep you off your feet.

If you’re in a car, if you come to a flooded area, turn around and go another way. If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground. Many deaths have resulted from attempts to move stalled vehicles.

n During an evacuation

If you’re advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Evacuation is much simpler and safer before flood waters become too deep for ordinary vehicles to drive through. Listen to a battery-operated radio for evacuation instructions. Follow recommended evacuation routes — shortcuts may be blocked. Leave early enough to avoid being marooned by flooded roads.

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