Site last updated: Monday, May 20, 2024

Log In

Reset Password
MENU
Butler County's great daily newspaper

Water Rescue Team called into action as flooding returns

Butler County's Water Rescue Team 300 rescues a dog from a flooded home on Horseshoe Lane in Forward Township. Submitted photo

Parts of Butler County were blindsided on Thursday night and Friday morning with a second major flooding incident of the month, forcing the county’s dedicated water rescue team into action.

Butler County’s Water Rescue Team 300, which is made up of officers from multiple firefighters, paramedics and EMTS, both volunteer and career, across the county, responded to six cases of residents trapped in their homes or cars due to rising floodwater, as of noon on Friday, April 12.

One such incident occurred early Friday morning, when the team was called out to assist with a vehicle which was literally swept away off the side of Hartmann Road in Jackson Township. Floodwaters seeped into the truck’s engine compartment and disabled it.

“The water ended up being about midway up our chests, so probably about three to four feet deep,” said Matt Otto, Team 300 volunteer and chief of the Evans City Volunteer Fire Department. “We moved the boats out to him and gave him a life vest, and then we were able to pull him back to shore.”

According to Otto, the driver, who was uninjured, was the only occupant of the vehicle.

Deputy chief Doug Pickett of the Harmony Fire District assisted the Water Rescue Team on three such rescues, including the Jackson Township truck rescue.

“We believe that the water came over the road and they didn’t have a chance to barricade it yet,” Pickett said. “He didn’t realize the road was flooded, and by the time he did, it was too late.”

The second was a coordinated effort to rescue multiple residents on Willow Road in Jackson Township from their homes as they were consumed by rising floodwater. According to Pickett, five people and five pets were rescued.

The team also was dispatched Friday to Jackson Street in Harmony.

“It was originally for one resident all the way at the end of a boat launch,” Pickett said. “While we were there, we also noticed that the next house up was also surrounded and there was an elderly couple living there, so we helped them out.”

Another rescue took place at Horseshoe Lane in Forward Township, in a neighborhood parallel to the Connoquenessing Creek. The Water Rescue team and other rescue agencies came to the aid of an elderly couple and their dog.

A neighbor, Ed Harlan, witnessed the rescue from start to finish.

“From the time they actually got there and put the boat in the water, it didn’t take them an hour. Maybe 40, 45 minutes,” Harlan said. “It was smooth. They must have practiced a lot.”

According to Harlan, every home in the neighborhood suffered flooding damage, including his own. However, only the two residents required assistance, as everyone else in the neighborhood had left before they could also be trapped.

“There will be water damage to everybody down there. All the way down,” Harlan said.

Most of the team’s rescues were centered around the southern part of the county because, according to Pickett, that part of the county is the most vulnerable to taking damage from flooding during heavy rains like those seen over the past two weeks.

“Harmony and Zelienople are very prone,” Pickett said. “We’re probably the most flood-prone area in the county as far as storm-related flooding. Anywhere along the Connoquenessing, Breakneck Creek or Slippery Rock Creek ... those are pretty flood-prone.”

Otto said the last few days of rain have been so heavy local stormwater systems have not been able to contain it.

“The water came down so quickly that here in Evans City ... the storm drains could not handle the amount of water that was coming in,” Otto said.

For future flooding situations, authorities recommend motorists act with caution and turn back at the first sign a road may be flooded and undrivable.

“Sometimes you think it may be shallow, but you never know how deep that water really is,” Otto said. “The road underneath could be washed away. Any time you see ponding water, please turn around. Don’t drive through it.”

Authorities also recommend residents who live in flood-prone areas maintain an evacuation plan and keep track of the water level of their nearby body of water.

“There’s graphs online that monitor that every half hour,” Pickett said. “Be aware of the trend. If it’s still rising, you’ll know that there’s a threat of your house being flooded.”

“If you want to live on the creek, you’ve gotta pay the price,” Harlan said.

This article was updated April 15, 2024 to reflect that Team 300 is made up of firefighters, paramedics and EMTS, both volunteer and career, from across Butler County. A previous version of the article stated that Team 300 is made of policing agencies.

Butler County's Water Rescue Team 300 rescues residents and pets from a house on Willow Road in Jackson Township which is surrounded by floodwater. Submitted photo.
Butler County's Water Rescue Team 300 rescues a vehicle stranded in floodwater on Hartmann Road in Jackson Township. Submitted photo.
Butler County's Water Rescue Team 300 prepares to rescue two residents and a dog from a flooded home on Horseshoe Lane in Forward Township. Submitted photo
Butler County's Water Rescue Team 300 prepares to rescue two residents and a dog from a flooded home on Horseshoe Lane in Forward Township. Submitted photo
Butler County’s Water Rescue Team 300 rescues a dog from a flooded home on Horseshoe Lane in Forward Township. Submitted photo

More in Local News

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

* indicates required
TODAY'S PHOTOS