Unprecedented flash flooding swept into parts of the city early Saturday night when a continuous downpour dumped upwards of 4 inches of rain in a two-hour period.
The hardest hit areas were parts of Newberry, the city's Historic District and the Campbell Street Community Center neighborhood, where the city's storm sewer system was totally overwhelmed.
"I can't believe I have a lake in front of my house. My property value just went up because I have a lake in front of my home," a resident across from the center was heard saying as he laughed on his front porch in the 600 block of Campbell Street.
PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette
Several streets in the city were flooded with more than 2 feet of water when a flash flood struck the region early Saturday night. This is the 800 block of Memorial Avenue looking west from Campbell Street.
There was no place for him to go until it stopped raining and the water receded.
"There is a lot of cars damaged, I bet," said another man as he took a picture of the flooded 800 block of Memorial Avenue with his cellphone.
Cars were parked on both sides of the street, where the water was believed to be more than 2 feet deep.
The city's Bureau of Fire was inundated with nearly 60 weather emergency calls that began about 6:20 p.m. and lasted for about 90 minutes.
The calls ranged from water in the basement to gas odors in homes, city fire Platoon Chief Eric Smith said.
"I've never seen the city receive this much rain in such a short period of time," said Smith, a 30-plus year veteran of the fire department.
"It was unreal. I've never seen it like this," Smith said of the flash flooding.
When basements flood, pilot lights to gas hot water heaters can go out and that will cause gas odors to build up inside the home, city Deputy Fire Chief David Dymeck said.
UGI crews were busy throughout the night, inspecting properties where such gas odors were reported.
While firefighters will handle any fire emergency, "we do not pump out flooded basements. We just don't have the manpower or equipment," Smith said.
One resident reported detecting gas coming right through the asphalt in the 800 block of Park Avenue. A UGI crew was dispatched to the site to check it out, but further information about the incident was not available.
Responding to a report of "water pouring into the Brodart building" in the city's Newberry neighborhood a lit-
tle after 6 pm, Smith soon ran into water problems himself.
"When I got to West Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue, there was a lot of water. It was already up to the bottom of the doors of the car," he said, referring to the Ford Expedition that the duty chief drives on emergency calls.
"We had two or three reports of people stranded in cars, but when firefighters reached those scenes, the people were already out, or our crews found nothing there," Smith said.
Six off-duty firefighters were called in to help handle the heavy volume of calls.
The Old Lycoming Township firehouse on Dewey Avenue began to take on water, but the trucks could easily get out if an emergency occurred, Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Oldt said.
"Water was bubbling right out of the storm drains here," Oldt said.
About 2 inches of water flooded the station "from end to end," he said.
Water began receding quickly after 8 p.m.
The National Weather Service radar in State College reported that more than 4 inches of rain fell.
"It looks like it stalled out for a couple of hours," said Peter Jung, a meteorologist at the weather service.
He said one weather spotter in Newberry recorded 2.4 inches of rain in just 45 minutes.
Although the rain came fast and furious, Jung said it's not abnormal to receive such a downpour.
"Any real thunderstorm ... in summer can give you a couple of inches in an hour," he said.
Jung said the storm seemed to be confined to the southern part of Lycoming County, including the city and nearby townships.
The weather service issued a flash flood warning for southern Lycoming County that was to expire at 9:15 p.m. Saturday. A small stream flood advisory also was issued for eastern Lycoming County through 10 p.m. Saturday.