Emergency crews and local contractors worked for over 24 hours last week, to clear a massive ice jam in Nicholson
The jam caused the closure of Route 92 on Wednesday and flooding of nearby buildings.
PennDOT spokesman James May said that Route 92 was closed around 2 p.m., when it was determined that the ice was piling up around the bridge spanning Martin’s Creek located near the center of town. A PennDOT crew investigated the bridge and determined there was no danger to the structure, May explained.
However, Route 92 remained closed to all but local traffic on Thursday, because of flooding.
Wyoming County Emergency Management Coordinator Gene Dziak was coordinating efforts on the scene to alleviate the situation.
Southwestern Energy coordinated efforts with Bill Ruark of Meshoppen Stone to transport an excavator to the scene to clear the ice to break the jam. The ice had completely covered the creek for several hundred yards up and downstream. In some places, the ice was four feet thick.
Dziak reported that the ice finally started to move around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Fire departments from Nicholson and Factoryville provided personnel and equipment to help out, including pumping out flooded basements.
“PennDOT has been a big help as well,” Dziak said. “They went well above and beyond the call of duty, supplying equipment and personnel each shift.”
Nicholson was the only place in Wyoming County that experienced a serious ice jam. Dziak said there is no way to predict when they will occur, or what will cause them.
“They just happen,” he explained. “At 9 a.m. there was no flood issue, but by 1 p.m. the ice was jammed, driving water into the borough.”
Wyoming County Commissioner Tom Henry reported that Williams Midstream and Cabot Oil & Gas provided equipment and financial support during the crisis.
Williams paid $6,500 to remove a large tree and root ball that had fallen into the creek. Williams and Cabot paid for the use of Meshoppen Stone’s long-arm excavator. Michels in Keelersburg also provided equipment.
Dziak reported that the 9-11 center provided a great deal of support during the emergency.
“They fielded all our calls,” he explained. “They coordinated radio transmissions. They did an awesome job to keep the county running smoothly.”
The Nicholson United Methodist Church was also a big help, Dziak said. Even though the water nearly got as high as the front door, the church provided rest rooms and coffee, and whatever else was needed.
Harold Luther, a contractor excavator from Nicholson, also provided support.
Eight residences and some businesses took on water near the ice jam.
Walter Griffin, owner of Nicholson Tire at 17 Walnut Street, reported that his business sustained flooding, but fortunately the building was not damaged. The water had been removed from the premises, but the store was closed due to flooding in the parking lot.
“We’ve got these big blocks of ice right now,” Griffin explained Thursday about the condition of the parking lot. “People can’t get in here.”
Griffin also said the ice was backed up as far as Nicholson Lumber, and some residences took on water because of the flood.
Griffin said on Monday that Nicholson Tire had reopened, and back to its normal operations.
Another business affected was Belvedere Lanes, the local bowling alley. Manager Matthew Loch said Thursday they were removing the water, and he was uncertain how much damage they sustained.
“We got a lot of giant ice cubes,” he said.
Robin Griffin at Belvedere Lanes said on Monday that the bowling alley had reopened to the public.
Both Dziak and Henry emphasized that without the support from volunteers, local businesses, and the gas industries, the situation in Nicholson would have been ‘catastrophic.’
“It’s a small county, but they came forward in a big way,” Henry said.
Dziak also reported that Tunkhannock Creek near Shadowbrook crested at 8.5 feet on Wednesday, Jan. 24. There was no danger of flooding, which will not occur until the creek reaches at least 11 feet.
Winter conditions did cause a power outage for about 350 Penelec customers in Tunkhannock Township on Tuesday, Jan. 23.
Penelec representative Scott Surgeoner said that trees caused the outage around 5:11 p.m. Power was fully restored at 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 24.