By Garrett Dvorkin
Herald Staff Reporter
On Saturday, heavy rains on top of an already saturated ground caused severe flooding throughout Titusville.
As of Monday, the City, and business and homeowners, are dealing with the effects of the flooding, having to clear out water and clean up plenty of sediment. The City is now looking to take action to help clean up from the mess, as business owners work to recover.
City Manager Neil Fratus told The Herald that the City has taken the step of renting a more advanced street sweeper from Butler to help clean up city streets. The City does have a sweeper in its collection, but Fratus said that the older model would be less efficient.
“The city sweeper would have taken two months to clean the city. This new model will take a week, maybe two,” said Fratus.
Fratus asks that those cleaning up from the mud and sediment push that into the streets, and allow the sweeper to clean it up. There has been a worry that too much dumped into drains could only cause worse damage with continued rainfall.
Fratus asked that anyone who has questions about the mud cleanup, like dumping into an alley, call City Hall for more information.
Titusville Fire Chief Joe Lamey described the flooding on Saturday as a 20-year flood. While the flooding was more severe than usual, he said that Titusville’s residents familiarity with Church Run’s flooding made for a situation where his department tried to keep order, without having to attempt any major rescues from life-threatening situations.
Lamey’s men started the day clearing storm grates. At a certain point, it became clear that “Church Run had really exploded,” and the crews left their grate cleaning duties to help with emergency calls.
Lamey said they responded to about 30 calls throughout the day, the majority being wellness checks.
Something that the fire department wanted to avoid was “making the situation worse.” One of the reasons of a lot of flood waters made contact with businesses and homes was drivers causing wake.
As the department’s trucks are rather large, they had three trucks spread out in different areas to answer calls, therefore avoiding creating wakes that could damage structures.
“Our first goal is safety, our next goal is conservation,” said Lamey. Conservation in this situation meant not harming property.
One of the more serious situations came when, according to Lamey, a group of special needs persons became stranded in town after their taxi from Pittsburgh had a problem.
Lamey said that City Manager Neil Fratus saw the group navigating the dangerous waters downtown and gave them a ride to the fire station. The group, waiting for another ride from Pittsburgh, ended up staying at the fire hall until 10:30 p.m., even having dinner with the fire fighters.
Besides that harrowing rescue, Lamey said the majority of calls were for stranded and abandoned vehicles. He attributed the lack of serious calls to Titusville residents being “fairly used” to the flooding of the creek.
Lamey said that most residents reaction were “pretty standard,” except for a problem group of drivers who wanted to test out the waters, according to the chief, in their lifted-tire four-wheel-drive trucks.
Lamey, who said he was a kid not too long ago and went splashing in puddles, understands the desire to drive around town and look at the destruction, but warned against it.
“I can’t emphasize how much increased aggravation that causes,” he said, “It adds insult to injury.”
As flood waters came down Franklin Street, causing strong currents, the City’s main area of businesses was hit hard by the flooding. The flooding caused several locations to close, as the rest dealt with staying open while dealing with the water.
Fat Chad’s was forced to close on Saturday as the staff had to deal with about four feet of water in the basement. Chad Covell, owner, said that he had to shut off the restaurant’s electricity to safely clear out the basement.
The restaurant was back to serving the public on Sunday, but Covell was still clearing out mud from the basement on Monday.
Marlin’s Family Restaurant, the former Boonies, also had to alter its plans for Saturday. As the restaurant had three feet of water in the basement, they had to shut their doors and cancel the band they had booked.
According to owner Maura Turner, even as they “worked all night” to clear the water and inches thick of mud, she said it could have been “way worse.”
One business had it’s introduction to the city altered. Titusville Iron Works this weekend had food, beer and music for the opening of the Iron Works Tap House.
While the location received multiple feet of water during the day, they posted on Facebook, “The show must go on! We’re game if you are. The water is receding.”
The Iron Works was also supposed to host the 40th anniversary of Titusville High School’s class of 1980. Owner Bob Joyce said that members of the class started to show up at 3 p.m., when the waters were at their worst.
With help from the Class of 1980, members of the community, and the Iron Works staff, the evening was not lost, and fun was had by many.
“By 5:30 the water was to the point where we could start selling beer,” he said. “And by 9, we were almost full.”
Joyce’s shop is full of priceless artifacts and relics of Titusville’s past. While there was a worry about the old stuff getting wet, Joyce said he didn’t see “anything alarming we couldn’t save.”
Even though days later the staff is still cleaning up the Iron Works, the night was still full of music, beer and food from the Magic Bus food truck.
Now that cleanup is underway, the next conversation to be had is how to prevent this level of flooding from occurring in the future.
City Manager Neil Fratus said that City Council has added Saturday’s flooding to Tuesday’s meeting agenda, and plans to discuss the matter in full.
Those who wish to attend the meeting should go to the Towne Square building at 7 p.m.
Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.