Broadway in Westville, NJ is flooded. Crews here to make sure people are safe.

Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio

Floods, warnings, PATCO interruptions — and more rain on the way

June 20, 2019 - 6:42 am
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UPDATED: 5:25 p.m.

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Delaware Valley was pummeled with rain overnight and early Thursday morning, leading to flooding and a big mess throughout the region. 

PATCO floods

Thousands of PATCO commuters had to find other ways to work Thursday morning. The overnight rains flooded-out several stations, and there's no word when service will resume.

At PATCO's Ashland station in Voorhees, crews used Shop Vacs to suck up the mud and water that flooded the floor of the station. PATCO says the Woodcrest station was also flooded, and the storms caused trackbed damage at Ferry Avenue. 

There was no PATCO service between Lindenwold and Broadway all morning. 

Commuter Marcus Dadyan was caught unaware.

"Last night I didn't even know — I mean, I got the emergency alert on the phone. But other than that I had no idea," he said. "I don't check online before I come here. I kind of figured, I've been using the train for probably the past two years, and usually there's no issues."

Commuter Lisa Gentile was considering her alternatives.

"I don't have a Plan B. I didn't know. I mean, I was hit with this all at once. I'm going to think it through. I mean, I'll be sitting in traffic for a good hour or two."

Some commuters drove to work. Others called for Ubers from the PATCO lot.

Acme roof collapse

The roof of a Montgomery County grocery store collapsed just hours before it opened for business as employees worked inside. 

Emergency crews were called to the Acme on Bethlehem Pike in Flourtown around 4 a.m. for a report of a building collapse with people trapped inside, but when firefighters arrived, all of the employees had gotten out of the store and no one was hurt. 

Robert Wilmot, the public information manager for the Flourtown Fire Department, said when a portion of the roof in the rear of the building collapsed, it caused more problems inside than just falling debris.

"When the roof collapsed, it did break the sprinkler system, break the sprinkler pipe," he said. "So there was sufficient additional flooding in the building due to the sprinkler pipe."

Wilmot said the water department came out to the scene to shut off service to the store, which stopped that flooding from the sprinkler system. 

Wilmot went on to say that, while it was initially believed that lightning caused the roof to collapse, that wasn't confirmed. He did say that the damage inside the store was very extensive, and it's unlikely the store will be open anytime soon.

Floods and road problems

Wet and flooded conditions are continuing to shut down and slow traffic on roads around the region. Follow the KYW Traffic Center for more details throughout the day.

In hard-hit Westville, Gloucester County, there are basements filled with water. An auto body shop, and the cars parked in its lot, are submerged. 

Crews had to get on rafts to make sure residents got out of their homes safely. That includes Michael Hess. He said Broadway tends to get flooded, because it's close to a creek that connects to the Delaware River.

"We’ve never had this much," he said. "We've always had flooding at the far corner, but never this amount. Literally, my whole basement is full of water to the kitchen step."

Hess said he's OK, and so are his three dogs, but not all his animals made it out alive.

"Half my chickens didn't, though, unfortunately. They got stuck in the coop."

Keith Murray woke up to a flood alert on his phone, moved his car to higher ground, and tried to go back to sleep.

"Woke up around 2 a.m. to this bad squealing sound, which was my central air, which was under water," he said.

He turned the air off and went downstairs.

"The water in the basement is just coming in the windows."

Murray was able to get out, with the help of rescue crews. And for the first time ever he'll be dealing with the insurance company.

"I'm a first-time homebuyer. I've only been in this place just over a year so it's a little overwhelming. My furnace, my hot water heater. I purposely bought that house because it's fully refurbished."

And now Murray, Hess and everyone else who lives there, has to figure out what's next.

Emergency declaration

In response to the flooding in South Jersey, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has declared a state of emergency for Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties. 

The governor met with emergency managers and residents in several hard-hit areas. 

"They’re frustrated," he said in Cherry Hill Thursday. "It’s, in many cases, not the first time it’s happened. Some had flood insurance, but literally on the same street, I think, neighbors — one had it and the next-door neighbor didn’t. 

"There was a young couple, and you could see the tears welled up in their eyes. So it’s difficult."

It will take a while for damage assessments and total costs to be added up. Then, it’ll be up to the feds to decide how much money, if any, comes to the state. Meanwhile, Murphy’s top priority is making sure people remain safe.

Evacuations were ordered along Main Street in Lumberton shortly after high tide, when the Rancocas Creek began to spill over its banks. Jamie Powell, a four-year resident of Lumberton, knew the drill all too well and got her cars out of the way.

"This time, the waters started meeting, and we decided to move them, and by the time we got back down here, the road was quite flooded. We got out just in time. Our house is raised, thank goodness, so we're not worried about our house or our things at this moment. Everything is off the ground."

A few people needed to be rescued. The rest must now pump out basements, bracing for whatever might come. Much of the downtown area was underwater for days in 2004 when a storm ripped through. Residents hope to avoid a repeat performance.

A flash flood watch is in effect until late Thursday night for large areas of northern Delaware, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania. The National Weather Service out of Mount Holly, N.J., says there is potential for rapid, life-threatening flooding from heavy rains over a short period of time.

The showers and storms over southeast Pennsylvania and South Jersey that have caused widespread flood conditions have pushed northward and are weakening. Flood warnings will be in place for most of Thursday.

Another round of heavy storms will develop Thursday afternoon and evening, dropping as much as 1 to 3 more inches of rain. It will not take much additional rainfall to cause even more flooding in already saturated and flooded areas.

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KYW Newsradio's Tim Jimenez, Dan Wing, Mikle Denardo and David Madden contributed to this report.