Lower Bucks County hit by ‘century-old flood’ in heavy rains

The rain came and didn’t stop for hours. Neither did Casey South and first responders as heavy rains from the summer storm drowned his neighborhood of Croydon Acres.

South spent most of Monday night helping rescue people further down the block of Spencer Drive who were stuck at home in what the National Weather Service would later describe as a 100-year flood caused by rains torrential.

“I have lived here for 10 years and spent most of the evening yesterday helping families and everyone to get out of homes and evacuate with the firefighters,” he said, adding that neighbors who had lived there much longer told him they hadn’t seen flooding like this storm since the 1960s. “Two boats were here.

Rescues in the area off Bristol Pike were among many on Monday evening as the skies opened and a furious storm did not pass for about four hours, dumping 6-10 inches on the hardest hit areas.

“It is estimated to be a 100-year flood,” the weather service tweeted on Monday evening.

Floods hit Pennsylvania: Watch the videos

Tuesday was devoted to drying, cleaning and assessing the damage.

“I have beach towels all over the place right now,” said Karen Dipko of Spencer Drive. “It was a pretty interesting evening.”

She was at work when the storm hit and came home to find the rugs in her living room soaked. Dipko used beach towels and puppy pillows to soak up the water, while keeping his dog out of his backyard, which was completely submerged.

As she spoke, a large flatbed tow truck descended into the street, heading towards two cars still submerged in the water. He created a wake in passing.

South said every time a truck crossed the water still on the street, it sent waves to neighbors’ homes.

It could take days or more to recover from the floods which submerged cars and forced dozens of people from their homes in the Bristol Borough, Croydon in Bristol Township and Bensalem.

The summer storm also saturated the ground with so much water that the area could experience further flooding with even a slight amount of rain.

“There is so much rain in the ground right now,” National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick O’Hara said Tuesday. “If even a small rain were to fall, it could cause flooding.”


The spray paint marks the condos at the Lafayette Gardens complex in Bensalem which were heavily damaged in the Monday night flooding.

Cleanup Begins at Lower Bucks

As residents assessed the damage and began the cleanup, they described conditions some had never seen.

“I had no idea we were going to have a poolside party,” said Joan Merritt, who lives in the Glen Hollow Apartments near Newportville Road, near Spencer Drive, where cars were still submerged Tuesday afternoon. .

Spencer’s resident Matt Briegel said Monday night’s water was 6 feet deep on the street.

In the nearby town of Bensalem, at least 60 people at Lafayette Gardens in the 500 block of Bristol Pike have been evacuated, Bensalem public safety director Fred Harran said. No serious injuries were reported, he said.

Bensalem’s engineer was on site Monday evening to assess the safety of the buildings at the condominium complex, after about 10 feet of flood water swallowed the first-floor units, Harran said. The township set up a temporary emergency shelter for residents Monday night at Robert K. Shafter Middle School, Harran said.

Most residents, however, had found alternative accommodation for the night, and the shelter was closed on Tuesday.

In the Bristol borough, four houses on Pond Street were “boarded up to some extent until they could be checked” to ensure they were not structurally damaged before residents cannot go back, Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe said on Tuesday morning.

Two of the houses were vacant; residents of the other two were staying with relatives, he said. In the afternoon, county officials were on hand to assess the damage.

“We are facing a lot of basement flooding and structural damage to homes,” said DiGuiseppe.

Mill Street businesses appeared to have weathered the storm well, although their back parking lot was flooded.

But on McKinley Street, Veronica Serrano was having a car crash.

“My (Ford) Focus and Chevy Equinox are totally inundated,” she said. “I can’t start them. I don’t know what to do.”

Across the street, neighbors Ray and Mary Bunda marveled at how quickly the water rose in their neighborhood.

“We have water sometimes, but nothing like that. We got home. Our car was flooded and we had water in the basement,” Ray said. “It’s come to our second step,” added Mary.

DiGuiseppe said borough work crews were out on Tuesday to clean out drains clogged with debris from the storm in case it rains more. He added that “a lot of townhouses” have water in their basements in Bristol.

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Bensalem officials estimate that 10 feet of water was poured into some units at the Lafayette Gardens condo complex off Highway 13, rendering them uninhabitable.

How Much Rain Did Bucks Receive?

More rain was forecast on Tuesday with possible thunderstorms for the remainder of the week.

Eight to 10 inches of rain fell in Levittown on Monday afternoon and the water was knee deep on Blue Ridge Drive in Bristol Township.

While the Lower Bucks neighborhoods were hit hard, Newtown received two inches of rain while Doylestown and communities further north received less than an inch of precipitation.

Meteorologists are uncertain whether this was a single thunderstorm or a series of successive weather events in a four-hour event that ended shortly after 6 p.m.

The air in the upper atmosphere was very still, O’Hara said. “What made this one unusual was that the storm formed very quickly and remained focused on one area.”

The view from Sarah Baker's second-floor condo in Lafayette Gardens shows how water from the heavy rain on Monday afternoon began to surround the complex, where at least 60 people were evacuated
A kayaker paddles down a street in the Borough of Bristol on Monday after heavy rains caused flooding in the area.

‘It all happened so fast’:At least 60 residents of Bensalem condo evacuated after flood waters engulfed the complex

Flood emergency declared:NWS declares sudden flood emergency as parts of Bristol and Bensalem receive 6-10 inches of rain

During the storm, first responders were inundated with calls for service. In addition to rescues, these calls include water in the roads, fallen wires, and road hazards.

David Skutnik, spokesperson for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross, said Red Cross officials and county officials were working with the displaced people.

According to PECO, most of the power outages reported on Monday evening were restored, but around 157 customers were left without power on Tuesday morning.

Karen Dipko, a resident of Spencer Drive in the Township of Bristol, used beach towels and puppy towels to soak up the flood waters that soaked the carpet in her living room after the storm that hit Lower Bucks County Monday afternoon and evening.

What is a 100-year flood?

The term “100-year flood,” according to the US Geological Survey, describes an extreme hydrological event as a flood with a 100-year return interval. In short, this means “based on historical rainfall and stream level data,” the probability of reaching that level is once every 100 years.

“In other words, a flood of this magnitude has a 1% chance of occurring any year,” according to usgs.gov.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t see a hundred year flood more than once in a lifetime.

“The term ‘100-year flood’ is used to try to simplify the definition of a flood that statistically has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. Likewise, the term “centennial storm” is used to define a rain event that statistically has that same 1% chance of occurring, “according to the USGS. “In other words, over a million years these events are expected to occur 10,000 times. But, just because it rained 10 inches in one day last year doesn’t mean it can’t rain 10 inches in a day again this year. “

Matt Briegel of Spencer Drive in the Croydon Acres section of the Township of Bristol points to the area on his street where water rescues were needed Monday night as a tow truck crosses the receding water on Tuesday morning to reach partially submerged vehicles.

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