UPDATE: Road closures, waterways monitored as rain continues

Apr. 3—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Roads closures, minor mudslides and rising waters kept area emergency responders busy for a second straight day as rain fell Wednesday.

In Meyersdale, responders were monitoring the Casselman River, which was six inches below its initial "flood stage," Meyersdale Fire Chief Mike Miller said.

The river's rise leveled off by 4:30 p.m. after rising earlier that day. Miller said steps would be taken to notify residents in the downstream flood plain, which includes the lower end of Broadway Street, if the Casselman's levels reach that point.

A voluntary evacuation was suggested for those who wanted to take the precaution.

"If it reaches flood stage, people will know. We'll send out a Code Red alert to advise them," Miller added.

The river rose to — or just beneath — its flood stage in 2018 and 2021, leading to at least one evacuation in recent years.

Just outside Portage Borough, a portion of state Route 53 was closed to traffic after water-soaked soil underneath the roadway eroded, causing port of Route 53's shoulder to break away, PennDOT officials said.

Elsewhere, a section of Route 56 in Seward was closed due to stormwater issues. And in Confluence, a flood warning was issued early Wednesday in a low-lying area often prone to flooding at the Route 281 underpass.

At this point, while streams and rivers continue inching upward across the region, Somerset County Emergency Management Director Joel Landis said countywide issues are largely a roadway concern at this point.

Flooding isn't threatening residences and no evacuations have been ordered, he said.

"Right now, the places that typically flood are flooding," Landis said. "Some secondary roads are closed and we're going to continue to have streams and rivers rise today until at least noon ... and that's what we're monitoring."

Across Cambria and Somerset counties, the region's issues remain minor compared to the reports of flash floods in Washington County, baseball-sized hail in Illinois and damaging tornadoes in Kentucky and the state of Indiana that had an early spring storm the past two days.

"So far, we've fared pretty well with this (storm)," Confluence Fire Chief Tyler Byrd said.

'Turn around, don't drown'

Byrd said most area residents are used to seeing the Youghiogheny River water backflow into the Route 281 underpass when heavy rains linger.

That didn't stop one motorist from driving past "warning" signs early Wednesday. The driver's vehicle ended up getting disabled in the floodwaters, Byrd said.

The driver was able to exit the vehicle — and the underpass — on his own, he said.

Byrd said the motorist is lucky because the flooding pools in that area, rather than flowing like a current, which can carry away vehicles.

With water levels continuing to rise, that can become a danger anywhere where flood-prone areas exist, Landis said.

And motorists need to think twice before crossing flooded roadways.

"Cars are a lot lighter than they used to be — for fuel economy," Landis said. "They can be swept away a lot easier."

PennDOT officials issued its memorable reminder to motorists Tuesday: "Turn around, don't drown."

CSA monitoring Wilmore, Que dams

The Cambria Somerset Authority also took action before reservoir levels subsided later in the day Wednesday.

During one point around noon, the authority issued an alert as water levels were approaching two feet above the Wilmore and Quemahoning reservoirs' separate spillway.

It's standard protocol during instances of prolonged, heavy rains.

Spillways are designed to enable rising water to be released downstream, CSA Chairman Jim Greco said.

Despite the eye-catching title, a Stage 1 Flood Alert is an almost annual occurrence for one or more of the CSA's dams — and it doesn't signal any danger is imminent, he said.

Rather, the alert sets up a series of protocols to ensure emergency management crews — and the CSA — are both prepared, so that decisions could quickly be made if levels began to rise further or faster, he said.

In this case, a CSA employee was assigned to monitor levels in-person at the dam and report levels hourly. The authority uses an electronic system that continuously provides measurements "as a backup to give us visual confirmation those readings are accurate," he said.

Over the years, as recently as 2021, when levels rose even further beyond the current point to three feet over Wilmore Dam's spillway, low-lying, flood-prone parts of South Fork and Wilmore were evacuated as a precaution by Cambria County Emergency Management.

"When we reach certain levels, we notify emergency management so they call the shots — that's how it's always done," Greco said. "But there's nothing to panic about. Dams are made for this exact type of situation."

In Johnstown, the Little Conemaugh flowed at an estimated rate of 1.8 million cubic feet per-minute through the city's river walls at one point, cresting at 14 feet.

Like the Stonycreek, the continuous flow of water moved through the concrete river channels far below both rivers' minimum flood stages.

Rainfall totals

Total rainfall since Sunday, per the National Weather Service:

Mineral Point: 5 inches

Conemaugh Township (Somerset): 5.35 inches

Ebensburg: 4.75 inches

Cumberland, Md: 3.95 inches

Yellow Creek State Park: 5.24 inches

Meyersdale: 5.66 inches

Somerset Township: 4.73 inches

PennDOT officials had no timetable on how soon Route 53 between Portage in Lilly would reopen due to Wednesday's soil-related washout near Plane Road.

Motorists were being redirected to Route 164 and Route 22 to access the Lilly area.

A number of roads in the region were closed due to flooding Wednesday, including several in Tanneryville, Cambria County and Dutch Road southeast of Carrolltown.

PennDOT's 511 PA site listed Route 56 between Charles and Third streets in Seward, Westmoreland County, as closed as of 3 p.m.

Stay up to date on state road closures

Pennsylvania offers up-to-date details on road clsures across Pennsylvania, including the Cambria-Somerset region.


In addition to portions of Mount Davis Road, Somerset County 911 officials said Matlick Road was also closed in Meyersdale. Glade City Road east of town near Keystone Street was closed due to a mudslide.

In Windber, emergency responders were called to the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine at Windber after stormwater began pooling in the building's elevator pit.

The issue did not cause any floors of the building to be evacuated, a 911 supervisor said.