One year after catastrophic floods, York County still waiting for road repairs

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
A vehicle uses a single available lane while passing destruction caused by flooding one year ago on Accomac Road Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

It's been one year since flash floods devastated portions of York County on Aug. 31, 2018, and in some areas, not much has improved.

Accomac Road in Hellam Township took a beating during the storms. A large section of the road collapsed, leaving only one lane for traffic and a steep drop-off into a ravine below.

Temporary traffic lights now direct vehicles on the single-lane portion of the road, and a concrete barrier serves as a guardrail between the intact part of the road and the crumbling remains of what used to be the second lane.

"It’s not an easy place to get in and out of anyhow," said Paul Nevin, a Hellam Township resident. "But now if a car gets stuck there, there’s no place to get it off the road."

The road is maintained by the state Department of Transportation, and permanent repairs aren't scheduled to begin until spring 2022, according to PennDOT spokesman Mike Crochunis.

The berm on a creek overpass on River Road is lined with barriers resulting from destruction caused by flooding one year ago on Accomac Road Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

It's too early to determine an estimated cost for the work, Crochunis said.

Nevin lives in the 6200 block of River Drive, near the intersection with Accomac Road.

He said he's concerned about erosion of the soil beneath the single-lane portion of Accomac Road, especially if repairs aren't scheduled to begin for at least two years.

PennDOT has been in touch with the township but hasn't given an estimated completion date, said Galen Weibley, chairman of the board of supervisors.

"While Accomac is a state road, the township remains committed to open communication with PennDOT as updates develop to repair this important emergency evacuation route for our residents," Weibley wrote in an email.

A vehicle uses a single available lane while passing destruction caused by flooding one year ago on Accomac Road Friday, Aug. 30, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

The eastern and south-central areas of York County were hit the hardest during the Aug. 31 floods, with some areas experiencing 4 to 6 inches of rainfall in a six-hour period, according to the National Weather Service in State College.

That might not seem like enough to collapse a roadway, but all of that water flows toward rivers and streams and into drainage basins, said Michael Colbert, a meteorologist with NWS in State College.

"You could easily have 6 inches of rain accumulate in the stream and make that stream rise, in some spots several feet, based on just those inches of rain," he said.

The excessive rainfall and subsequent flooding caused about $19 million to $20 million in damage to public infrastructure across the county, said county spokesman Mark Walters.

That number doesn't include damage to private property.

More:Chanceford Township family facing bankruptcy after flood damage

More:All York County residents live in flood zone, experts warn

"It was worse than Agnes because it came so quickly," said David Warner, a supervisor in Chanceford Township.

Warner was referring to Hurricane Agnes, which wreaked havoc on Pennsylvania in June 1972 with catastrophic flooding and record rainfall.

Five roads maintained by Chanceford Township — Mill Road, Cramer Road, Gipe Road, Frey Road and Sechrist Road — remain closed pending repairs after damage from the Aug. 31 floods. And except for Mill Road, each has bridges that will need to be repaired or replaced.

With only $1.5 million in its general fund budget for 2019, Chanceford Township doesn't have the means to repair everything at once, Warner said.

Three other township roads, these maintained by PennDOT, are also closed pending repairs: Old Forge Road is expected to reopen by the end of fall 2021; Ted Wallace Road is expected to reopen by the end of October; and Lucky Road doesn't yet have an estimated repair date, according to PennDOT.

"Our constituents, they definitely need some help and assistance from the governor’s office, and it’s been over a year," Warner said. "I haven’t heard or seen anything."