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September 3, 2013

Muddy mess: Flooding closes school, possibly for all week

NORTHERN CAMBRIA — An estimated 5 inches of rain in less than an hour provided an extended Labor Day break for students in the Northern Cambria School District, but that will end today, at least for some.

Classes will resume at the high school. Teachers and secretaries districtwide will return to work, acting Superintendent Rodney Green said.

“Northern Cambria Elementary-Middle School will be closed (Wednesday) and Thursday,” Green said late Tuesday afternoon. “We’re letting Friday still open, but I’m not real optimistic.”

The school, located off St. Mary Street, was hit hard Labor Day evening when a strong thunderstorm moved through the area, dumping torrential rain.

Debris from the runoff forced the closure of Route 219 at 11th Street in the borough for a short time, Tara Callahan-Henry, PennDOT community relations coordinator, said.

“There were no real issues, some debris, but nothing large scale,” she said.

The storm also forced a premature end to a concert by country performer Dustin Lynch, whose 8 p.m. show at the Cambria County Fair in Ebensburg was called to a halt at 8:30.

“The show was canceled in the middle. Safety was our primary concern,” said Ron Springer, Cambria County emergency management director. “Everyone acted appropriately and there were no injuries.”

Meanwhile, Service Pro, a professional flood cleanup company spent Tuesday at the Northern Cambria school and will be back today and likely Thursday, Green said.

At one point, 50 to 60 people were working in the school with the primary focus on the areas hardest hit – the administration offices and the rooms housing kindergarten, first- and second- grade pupils, Green said.

Those areas were thought to have been covered by a couple of inches of water.

The cafeteria and some other areas of the school also received what Green termed as a “little bit of water.”

While the school is close to a few small streams, the water came from the parking lot and the roof, officials said.

“It was just a huge amount of runoff,” Springer said.

Carpeting in the administration offices will be ripped out and replaced. All affected parts of the building will be cleaned and sanitized.

“Everything there, we must assume it is contaminated,” he said.

Runoff, debris and flooded basements were reported across much of the northern Cambria area including Marsteller, where Devin Lockard and his wife came home from a short vacation to the downpour and a flooded basement.

“We had to sit in the truck until it stopped,” said Lockard, a cement contractor and member of the Northern Cambria school board. “I had a foot and a half of water in my basement.”

Lockard said he lives near a stream, but the problem was the amount of rain and his french drains around the house that were unable to keep up.

“I never saw rain come that quick. It was just so much so quick,” he said.

Kathy Mellott covers the northern Cambria area for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

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