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Residents living near creeks and streams are starting to clean up after a flood

Pamela Courie reached her breaking point Thursday when it began raining again.

Pamela Courie was at her breaking point on Thursday when it started raining again.

She and her husband spent a long time tearing down and throwing away flood-damaged parts of their Lowber home, as the Sewickley Creek overflowed on Wednesday and flooded their home.

“I want to move. I’m too sick to do this. I literally can’t do this again,” the 53-year-old Courie said while standing on her porch, which was stacked with flood-damaged belongings.

Her front yard was partially covered with what used to be a white carpet.

“It took us a whole year” to recover from a flood in September 2018, Courie said.

The Couries and many other families living along Sewickley Creek in the Lowber area, along the Youghiogheny River in West Newton and along Loyalhanna Creek in Latrobe, spent Thursday cleaning up the mess left by Mother Nature after four days of rain caused the creeks and rivers in the region to swell.

Towns across Westmoreland, from Ligonier and Latrobe in the east to Irwin in the west, were flooded with between 4.72 and 5.1 inches of rain from Saturday through Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Moon Township.

While others were fortunate that the damage was limited to their basement, the water covered 2 inches of the Couries’ first floor. The house off Lowber Road was hit with water from a spring, a broken sewage pipe that spewed its putrid contents and of course, the waters from the creek, Courie said.

J.D. Courie was more specific in describing what the muddy waters did to the basement of his home, which was surrounded by water on Wednesday.

“It’s like a dump truck backed up and dumped everything in the basement,” he said as he took a break from the enormous task of making his house livable again.

A neighbor on Lowber Road, Paul and Brenda Hermann and their family, were tearing down drywall and insulation from what used to be a finished basement before Wednesday.

“It came up 5 feet in the basement,” Brenda Herman said. It came up so quickly that they didn’t have time to save much, other than family keepsakes. She was woken up by a neighbor at 4:30 a.m. who warned her that the creek was rising.

Residents on Lowber Road who believed they were in a 25-year flood plain, found out the hard way on Wednesday that the so-called experts were mistaken.

“We thought we were going to be somewhat safe,” she said. “This is the second time in almost six years.”

On the Youghiogheny River in West Newton, Rick Boyd had a group of friends help him move belongings out of his basement to higher ground before the river overflowed on Wednesday afternoon. The river water ran over Collinsburg Road, cutting off access by the West Newton Trail Center.

He and friends were power washing the basement and stacking belongings, including his tools, in his driveway. Small furniture that was damaged by the flood is headed to the trash heap.

“Seven guys helped us,” Boyd said. “I’m too old to do it alone.”

Boyd, whose backyard faces the river, said it was the fourth time he’s been flooded since 1984. As bad as it was on Wednesday, it did not cause as much damage as the flood of January 1997, he said.

When asked if it was sufficient to make him move, Boyd shook his head.

“We are river people,” he stated.

Diane Heming was outside watching firefighters drain about 6 feet of water from her home’s basement on Collinsburg Road. The water flowed back into the Yough from where it came Wednesday afternoon.

It was not as severe as in 2018, she said, when the water reached her porch.

Heming learned from previous floods to put appliances upstairs or on blocks. Her hot water tank hangs from the basement ceiling, kept above the floor by blocks. Her furnace might get a new “home” — in her attic.

“I did not lose anything of value,” Heming said.

She mentioned there was only a few feet of water in the basement Wednesday until the pressure of the water broke her basement door. Then the water just came pouring in.

“There was stuff swirling around,” Heming said.

Similar to others, Heming has no intentions to move to higher ground.

“I like it here,” Heming said. “People appreciate that it is accessible to the river.”

The Couries, like some other residents, said they did not have flood insurance. The common reason was the cost.

“It was so expensive. We could not afford it,” Pam Courie said.

Residents in some low-lying areas of Ligonier Township were cleaning up from basement flooding.

About 30 homes had some water infiltration in the village of Darlington, as did others in the Green Acres neighborhood near the former Ligonier Beach resort, according to Township Manager Michael Strelic.

On Wednesday, motorists had to be rescued from two cars in a flooded section of Route 381, Strelic said.

As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, that section of 381 — between Route 30 and Club Stable Road — remained closed because of high water, PennDOT reported.

“That floods in much less rain than we had (Wednesday),” Strelic said.

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