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Northern Cambria residents question reason for flooding

By Maria Miller 

NORTHERN CAMBRIA, Pa. -- The Northern Cambria School District was forced to cancel classes Tuesday after heavy rains caused flooding throughout most of the town, leaving the hallways and classrooms a muddy mess. 

"There was water standing in the hallways. We also had water in the cafeteria and we had water in the gym," said Rodney Green, interim superintendent for the district. "Our administrative suite, attached to the middle school, was completely flooded also."

Classes will resume for high school students Wednesday, but the elementary and middle schools will remained closed until at least Friday as crews clean and sanitize. 

Cambria County Emergency Services estimates 4 to 5 inches of rain fell in the Northern Cambria area in less than an hour Monday night and that's what they say caused the bulk of the flooding. But some people who live in the Spangler area tell 6 News there's more to the story.

"(My neighbors told me,) 'Your home is a moat,' and sure enough I've got the pictures to show it," said Karen Wargo, who lives in Northern Cambria. 

Dozens of homes in Northern Cambria were surrounded by water Monday night after emergency officials estimated 4 to 5 inches of rain came down within an hour. 

"We <tried?> and to calm the kids down and I don't know, it was something," said Luke Shutty, whose home was flooded. "I'd never been a part of anything like this before."

Hundreds of people in the small town were cleaning up Tuesday and trying to figure out what to do next. 

"What do you do? I mean, where do you start," said Shutty. "I mean, I don't know. Fix it I guess. It's a shame." 

"It happened several years ago, but I've never seen it this bad," said Wargo. 

But neighbors in that section of town have been talking and doing their own investigation. They said there's a reason behind it. 

"The Department of Environmental Protection has been doing a project above the house here and all the runoff. ... It was so muddy," said Shutty. "That water had to have come directly from that area with no vegetation."

6 News drove up the hill and found the ground is in fact posted as a DEP mine reclamation site. The DEP even confirmed Tuesday that it's aware of the flooding and have some some upgrades planned in the coming days. But that isn't putting Shutty and his family's concerns to ease. 

"(The kids) are afraid if it rains again, we're going to get the same thing and maybe worse," said Shutty. "What if we get 4 feet of water in our basement instead of 2? Then what?"

DEP officials said the reclamation project has been ongoing for more than a year and has never caused severe flooding before, but they admit, it didn't help Monday. They said they have plans to plant grass and which should help in the future.

In the meantime, the DEP says it also found a bizarre dam made of barrels along an access road Tuesday. They said that dam broke Monday evening and caused extra flooding. They don't know where the barrels came from but they plan to replace them with piping as soon as possible.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times