The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 28, 2013

Heavy rain makes mess: Boswell area hammered again

Eric Knopsnyder

BOSWELL — Water sloshed from under Rosalie Benford’s flip-flops with every step on the maroon carpet in her Ditto Consignment Store on Route 30 in Ferrellton.

The other rooms of her store – some tile, some concrete – were covered in dark mud while puddles of rainwater stood in various parts of the building.

The fans and the dehumidifiers, which had been running nonstop since the last time her business flooded, continued to attempt the impossible task of trying to dry out the building, which is near the bottom of the hill at the intersection with Route 601.

“This is terrible,” Benford said as water gushed out of a hose just outside of her shop.

“This is the fourth time this month I’ve gotten flooded. This water is just terrible. It’s in the back of my store, it’s in the front of my store. It even went in my garage door this time. It’s just filthy and dirty and another endless day. The last time it took us a week to clean. This is worse than the last time.”

That was the consensus on Wednesday – that early morning downpour was the worst storm of the summer for the Boswell area, which has gotten a few of them recently.

A portion of Route 601 was closed and remained underwater on Wednesday morning, and North Star School District canceled classes just a day after beginning its academic year. The road was opened around midafternoon.

“Second day of school – it has to be some kind of record that I’m not proud to hold right now, but our kids are safe and that’s he most important aspect of what we did today,” Superintendent Shawn Kovac said.

Kovac said he got a call early Wednesday warning him that many of the roads in Boswell were closed due to flooding.

He initially called for a two-hour delay, but by about 7:30 a.m. he decided that it was necessary to cancel all classes for the day.

“A Boswell Borough worker told me that he could not promise that they could keep the roads open here in Boswell. I said there was more rain on the way and he said that was what he was worried about,” Kovac said.

“He also was worried about some of the roads being undercut and that if buses went over them they might fall through.

“At that point, I had no option but to cancel school.”

There was some flooding in the North Star Elementary School, but Kovac said that it won’t cause any lasting damage.

“One of our classrooms, the windows are almost at ground level,” he said.

“Apparently it rained so much so fast that it overtook the window and came in. We got it cleaned up. There was no damage, but we are going to have to find a way to seal those windows.”

Kovac said he had to use last year’s database to make the appropriate calls regarding the cancellation because the emergency contact numbers have not yet been updated for this year, but he was confident that he made the right call and that everything went smoothly.

“There were too many variables for me not to close school,” he said.

“I’m not going to put students in harm’s way.”

In Jenner Township, Mike Scherer watched in disgust as a culvert overflowed and washed away the rocks that he had put in front of his garage, spreading them across Short Street into his neighbors’ yards.

“I hauled five tons of shale in this summer and it’s all gone,” he said. “My garage is completely full of mud.”

Just down the block, Keith Fry said that his girlfriend’s newly built garage was covered in mud for the second time this month.

“We just cleaned it up last week from the last one,” said Fry, who is looking for township leaders to come up with a solution to the problem.

“We talked to them last week about addressing this. They said they were going to look into it. Unfortunately, we got another huge rain before they could do something. They’re going to have to figure something out with this.”

Jenner Township Supervisor Jim Henry didn’t have any solutions on Wednesday, as he was just trying to help clean up another mess.

“We had over 3 inches of rain last night, so we had all of the loose dirt that we had just cleaned up from a couple of days ago ... it all came back down,” Henry said.

“The water level in the ground is just higher than normal.”

Eric Knopsnyder is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at