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Council President: Irene 'Could Have Been a Lot Worse'

Hellertown Borough Council President and Dewey Fire Company volunteer Phil Weber said Hurricane Irene packed a powerful punch, but the damage inflicted could have been much more severe.

Although a particularly vulnerable block of downtown Hellertown's business district was figuratively smacked by Hurricane Irene, the damage inflicted by the storm "could have been a lot worse," Borough Council President Philip Weber said Sunday afternoon.

Weber, who was assisting other Dewey Fire Company volunteers with clean-up efforts in the 600 block of Main Street, pointed to businesses in that block that were briefly inundated when the Silver Creek--which passes underneath Main Street on its way to the Saucon Creek--turned into a raging torrent overnight.

Among the businesses affected by flood waters were Saucon Valley Dance Conservatory, Revere Flooring, Klassic Gold, and the newly-opened Erica's Cafe at 637 Main Street.

The building that houses Erica's Cafe was also seriously damaged when flood waters inundated that block of Main in September 2004.

One business owner's macadam parking lot was completely washed away in the flash flood, and along Water Street other businesses also took on water.

By early afternoon Sunday, however, Main Street had reopened and traffic was once again flowing freely along the north-south corridor--which Weber said was in marked contrast to seven years ago, when the remnants of Hurricane Ivan wreaked havoc in the Saucon Valley.

After Ivan dumped upwards of eight inches of rain in one night, Main Street was closed for a full day and the 600 block was covered in mud, Weber said.

Weber credited the Hellertown Public Works Department--under the direction of Tom Henshaw--with preparing for the storm before its full fury was unleashed.

He also acknowledged Borough Manager Cathy Kichline for having had the foresight to move records and other items stored in the basement of Borough Hall upstairs, before the storm arrived.

In fact, the basement of Borough Hall did become water-logged and a sump pump had to be used to drain it.

In anticipation of what turned out to be an eventful and memorable evening, Weber said Dewey volunteers gathered for a game of Monopoly at the fire house Saturday evening, before calls started rolling in as the storm intensified.

By early Sunday afternoon, he estimated that the company had responded to "at least 40 calls" that included several rescues--including one at the Front Street Apartments--and reports of gas leaks.

Weber said the Dewey Fire Company volunteers deserve much credit for their tireless efforts to keep up with the calls that came quickly throughout the night, as high winds and torrential rain buffeted the area and many basements began to flood.

No injuries in Hellertown were reported as a result of the storm, Weber said. 

Tracked down at home, Hellertown Mayor Richard Fluck agreed that the affects of the hurricane could have been more catastrophic for Hellertown, but said he was concerned about the number of trees that had fallen. With high winds continuing to blow, the potential for ongoing damage from falling tree limbs remained high.

The most serious tree-related damage appeared to have occurred on Cedar Road in the Mountainview section, where a massive tree was uprooted and fell directly onto a single-family home.

Power outages throughout Hellertown were periodic throughout the day Sunday, with the north end of town losing power early but seeing it restored by around lunchtime. Many homes in the Mountainview section also lost power, as did some businesses at the south end of town, including the Hellertown Diner and the Shoppes at Hellertown along Main Street. 

A transformer blew near Lost River Caverns, leading to the closure of Durham Street in between Constitution Avenue and Reservoir Road.

Stephanie Brown August 29, 2011 at 04:21 PM
The lack of information and communication about the State of Emergency in Hellertown and the flooding in the area by Borough and Township officials was unacceptable. The area of Hellertown where the Silver creek comes into downtown Hellertown and crosses under Main Street will always be a problem, so the Borough should properly mitigate the problem to reduce or eliminate it.Some of the buildings that ae in the area, might need to go, depsite their historic significance.
Rich Fluck August 29, 2011 at 07:45 PM
On Sept 17th, 2004, Hurricane Ivan brought down the tunnel behind the Hellertown Pool, part of the pump house, and the foot bridge in the Water Authority Park. To this day, the debris from these structures remains in the Silver Creek stream bed!!! I am far from being any type of engineer, but when I see the water running in this stream and being diverted away from the bridges because of the debris, I have to wonder if the Main St business issue would be reduced by removing the debris and having the creek flow under the bridges as designed?
Mark Albright August 30, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Listening in on my scanner, I was truly impressed by the methodical way the Borough crew, volunteer firefighters and EMS folks dealt with the sheer bedlam caused by the hurricane passing through. Despite an insane workload and a great deal of chaos, they managed to keep it together and steadily return order to the Borough (and power to me). Many, many thanks for an herculean effort, folks!!

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