GREENVILLE – Exhausted and bleary-eyed from shoveling mud out of his Greenville home, Tom Benson paused Thursday morning to collect his thoughts.
“This is all new to me,’’ Benson said of the Wednesday afternoon flood that struck his home. “You just try to deal with it.’’
Benson and other Greenville residents were cleaning up Thursday after heavy rains, that struck shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday and overwhelmed storm drains, creeks and rivers. The west side of Greenville, into West Salem Township, was hardest hit as the storm created flooding that turned streets and alleys into rivers.
Rainfall from previous days had left the ground saturated, which made Wednesday’s storm water into a torrent that poured into basements and yards. Benson, who lives on North High Street, said floodwaters punched a hole on one side of his rental home that created a creek through his living room.
“The water came 4 feet high in the house,’’ he said.
Murky floodwaters damaged furniture and family keepsakes, Benson said, and left behind mud and debris throughout his house.
Chuck Galus said he watched from further up Greenville’s west hill as the flood carried away a gas grill. The rushing water ripped away more than 5 feet of earth next to his house and carried it down an alley.
“It was like – swoosh – and then the water came along,’’ he said. “I couldn’t believe it. But you can’t do anything about it.’’
A chunk of a sewer pipe was sheared off next to the house, and he said utilities in the immediate area had been shut off to prevent further damage.
Galus said the home has been in his family for 60 years.
“We never had anything like this before,’’ he said. “We’re lucky though, the rain stopped. If it didn’t we wouldn’t be able to live here. I’m lucky that I only have an inch of water in my basement.’’
From just down the hill nearby, Liz Roberts said she watched as the water gushed past her home.
“It sounded like you were next to a river,’’ Roberts said. “It washed things away like garbage cans and grills.’’
Kevin Coffey worked most of the morning cleaning up debris along Main Street at the Margaret Brown building of St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Coffey, the church’s facility manager, brought a tractor with a bucket that he repeatedly filled with sticks, mud and garbage left behind by the flood waters.
“The water ran right through here,’’ Coffey said of the flood. “It was really bad here yesterday.’’
John Nicklin, Mercer County Public Safety deputy director, said the weather pattern created a classic flash flood.
“The creeks rose real fast and then went down as fast as it came,’’ Nicklin said. He couldn’t immediately say how much rain fell in the greater Greenville area.
Nicklin said two bridges in West Salem Township were heavily damaged, but he had no damage figures Thursday.
“This is going to take us several days to come up with some numbers,’’ Nicklin said.
Reports of flood damage in Mercer County were still coming in on Thursday, including a report of a 72-inch culvert washed away in Otter Creek Township.
In Greenville, Clarksville Street resident Jeff Derrick blamed a flooded basement on a storm drain that has been a problem for several years.
“There was 14 inches of water in my basement,’’ he said “I was lucky it didn’t hurt my furnace.”