Flood Information - Borough of Etna

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Flood Information

Etna Borough is proud to announce that Etna has achieved Class 7 classification in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System.  FEMA notified Etna in early April stating “the floodplain management activities implemented by your community qualifies it for a 15% discount in the premium discount in the cost of flood insurance for NFIP policies issued or renewed in Special Flood Hazard Areas on or after May 1, 2017.  We commend you on your community actions and your determination to lead your community to be more disaster resistant.  This commitment enhances public safety, property protection, and protects the natural functions of floodplains, and reduces flood insurance premiums.”

To learn more about your risk, what to do to protect your property, before, during, and after a flood, and how to purchase flood insurance, you can call the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-427­2419 or visit http://www.floodsmart.gov

You can also get information about flood insurance and disaster preparedness by calling the Department of Insurance toll free at 1-877-881-6388 or visiting their web-site at http://www.insurance.state.pa.us
for on-line brochures on flood insurance and what to do if there is a disaster.

Flood Projects Update

Since the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, the Borough has undertaken and completed projects to help lessen the frequency and severity of flooding in our community. Those projects include the replacement of the Allegheny Valley Railroad Bridge which provided an additional 18 inches clearance underneath the structure at a cost of over $700,000.00; the replacement of the Mae West – Grant Avenue Bridge by the Pa. Department of Transportation, which also provides an additional 18 inches of clearance; and the construction and installation of debris control facilities upstream in Shaler Township near Burger King, at a cost of a little over $130,000.00. Etna received one half of the funding necessary for this project through a grant, and the Township of Shaler received grant funding for the other half needed. These facilities are inspected and cleaned out after heavy rain events, with the two communities sharing the cost.

The Borough has also purchased through grant funding, a jet ski for the Etna Volunteer Fire Department to aid them in rescue attempts during high water events.

The Borough has also installed an AM ALERT Radio Station, AM 1670 to advise residents and business owners of pending high water emergencies. We have also installed a Warning Siren which will alert residents to tune into AM 1670 for flood warnings and watches as well as potential evacuations.

Debris Control Facilities have also been installed at the Parker Street “Run”, which has also overflowed and caused both street and resident flooding.

The Borough continues its annual maintenance of catch basins, storm inlets and storm water “runs” as part of its regular maintenance. After every rain event, storm runs are inspected and cleaned out as necessary. They are routinely inspected quarterly to ensure they are not clogged.

How Flooding Can Occur In Etna Borough - Flood Warning System

Flooding in Etna can be caused by three direct sources:  West Little Pine Creek, Pine Creek and the Allegheny River.  There are several “storm runs” in the Borough that can cause flooding in specific areas:  the Park Avenue Storm Run; the Parker Street Storm Runs and the Ganster Street Storm Run.

When the Allegheny River crests beyond 26 feet, flooding occurs in the low lying areas of Sycamore and Cherry Streets but at higher crest levels can include Railroad/Middle Streets and the lower portion of Bridge Street (near Sycamore Street).

The United States Geological Service (USGS) has a stream gauge located in Pine Creek at the Crescent Avenue Bridge near Dewey Street.  The Emergency Management Committee of the Borough has this gauge link on their cell phones so that it can be monitored from anywhere by that Committee.  This committee consists of the Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC), the Assistant EMC, the Mayor, Police and Fire Chiefs, and the Borough Manager.  When this gauge hits thirteen feet, flooding is a high probability and over thirteen feet, flooding can be eminent.  Benchmarks have been preset, which activate the Borough’s Flood Warning system, based on these gauges (which are not in exact real time – may be off by an hour) and predicted forecasts.  The gauges are listed here:  Two for Pine Creek in Etna – one is the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service and the USGS and one for the Allegheny River at the Point – USGS.  You can monitor the levels of these two waterways here.  We have shared the bench marks in which the Borough begins to take action with our Flood Warning System which follows, but you can monitor these gauges yourself and when the waters are rising but not at these benchmark levels and continued rain is predicted, you may choose to take steps in anticipation of possible flooding, such as moving items from your basement, plugging sewers, sand bagging or leaving the area until the threat has passed.

Flooding can occur through several routes in our community, either by overflowing of the creek or river banks, the overflowing of storm water runoff culverts or by sewer system overload and backup.  Dumping and littering adds to potential problems.  Because we are a combined sewer community (sanitary and storm water are combined in the same piping system), littering on the street can be washed into the storm catch basins during a rain event.  This can clog up the sewer system and take up vital space for the storm and sanitary flow.  PLEASE DO NOT LITTER.


Real Time Water Gauges

Graph of  Gage height, feet

Flood Warning System:

Etna Borough is a flood prone community.  Due to this fact, the Borough has taken steps to inform our residents and property owners what steps are taken to warn residents that the POTENTIAL FOR FLOODING EXISTS

During a rain event, the Etna Police Department and the Emergency Management Committee monitors the levels of the creeks (Pine Creek and West Little Pine Creek) storm runoff areas (areas listed above) and the Allegheny River on a regular basis for high flow.  When and if preset benchmarks have been reached, the Volunteer Fire Department and the Emergency Dispatch Center will be notified.  If it is determined by the Emergency Management Coordinator and the Emergency Management Committee that flooding is a REAL possibility, the Emergency Siren will be activated.  When you hear the siren, immediately tune your radio to 1670 AM, the Borough’s emergency alert radio station.  The Borough will also activate SwiftReach, the Borough’s reverse 911 phone calling system.  Repeated calls will be made to all potentially threatened areas with specific instructions depending upon the circumstances,  Both the radio station and the calling system will provide instructions that may
include warnings that flooding is a possibility and that you may choose to take steps in anticipation of possible flooding as described the above article.   If the Emergency Management Coordinator and/or the Emergency Management Committee determines that flooding is likely, instructions for evacuation will be provided.  IT IS IMPERITIVE THAT SHOULD AN EVACUATION FOR YOUR AREA BE ORDERED, YOU SHOULD EVACUATE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY.  Should you choose to not evacuate, you may be forced to ride out the duration of the flooding, as it may be impossible or life threatening to emergency personnel to try and reach you.


What You Can Do:

Several of the borough's efforts depend on your cooperation and assistance. Here is how you can help:

  • Maintenance of the drainage systems is critical in helping prevent or minimize the severity of flooding. The "runs" that are discussed in the "flood protection information" sheet are inspected quarterly and after every rainfall by the Public Works Department. This includes removing any debris, i.e., fallen trees, rocks, and other trash. Even the buildup of dirt and mud needs to be removed on a regular basis. It is crucial that residents do not add to the natural buildup by throwing any debris into these runs, over hillsides, and creek banks. This includes trees in a precarious situation (in jeopardy of falling). Anyone caught doing such, will be cited and fined.

  • Do not dump or throw anything into the ditches, streams or "runs". Doing so is in violation of borough ordinance No. 1215. This includes grass clippings and branches, etc. This ordinance carries stiff fines and penalties for violation.

  • If your property is next to a ditch, stream or "run", please do your part and keep the banks clear of debris.

  • If you see someone dumping, contact the Borough Office immediately at (412) 781-0569, or during off business hours the Etna Police Department at (412) 473-3056.

  • Always check with the Building Dept. before you build on, alter, re-grade, or put fill on your property. A permit may be needed to ensure that projects do not cause problems to other properties.

  • If you see building or filling without a borough permit posted, contact the Building Dept. at (412) 781-0569.

  • Check out the following information on flood proofing, flood insurance and flood safety.


Flood Proofing:

There are several ways to protect a building from flood damage. One is to keep the water away by re-grading your lot or building a small floodwall or earthen berm. Another way is to make your walls waterproof and place watertight closures over the doorways. A third approach is to raise the house above flood levels.

Many homes, though not in a floodplain, have sewers that back up into the basement during heavy rains. A plug or standpipe can stop this if the water does not get more than two feet deep. They are sold at hardware stores. For deeper sewer backup, speak to a plumber about overhead sewers or a backup valve. More information, including a list of contractors who do flood proofing and/or retrofitting, can be found in the new Flood Library located in the Municipal Building. (see article in the Council Notes Section of the newsletter for more info on the library.)

If you know a flood is approaching, you should shut off your gas and electricity and move valuable contents upstairs. There is very little notice of flooding, so a detailed checklist prepared in advance would be invaluable to you.

Need Financial Assistance?

If you need help financially to prepare yourself for a flood or to repair flood damage you can consider applying to the Allegheny Home Loan Program (AHILP). The AHILP is the most affordable way for Allegheny County residents to rehabilitate and/or improve their homes. It is sponsored by the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County and administered by Allegheny County Economic Development (ACED). There are Emergency/Priority loans with 0% interest for code violations or emergency conditions that present health and safety hazards and there is also a general improvement loan available with a very low 1% interest rate. There are also a limited number of grants available for certain code repairs, lead hazard control, accessibility improvements and public sidewalk repairs. For more information, click here


Emergency Flood Proofing:

We have discussed things you can do before flooding occurs and safety issues when flooding occurs. There are also things you can do as the water is rising to emergency flood proof your home. Sandbagging is one of them as well as immediately moving items from your basement to the first floor (or higher if need be). Electrical appliances should be unplugged immediately. The valve on your gas meter should also be shut-off.


Flood Safety:

Do not walk through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Six inches of moving water can knock a person off of their feet. If you walk in standing water, use a pole or stick to make sure the ground is still there.

Do not drive through a flooded area. Do not drive around barricades or barriers because the road or bridge may be washed out beyond them.

Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. Electrocution is the second leading cause of death during flooding. Report down power lines to Duquesne Light immediately or to the Police Department.

Look out for small animals, especially snakes. Use a stick or pole to poke through the water and turn things over where small animals may hide, to scare them away.

Look before you step Floors, stairs, and even the ground can be very slippery with mud after flooding. Debris, including broken glass or nails may also cover the ground surface.

Be alert for gas leaks. Do not smoke or light open flames unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area properly ventilated. Contact Equitable Gas or Peoples Gas to report leaks or the Police Dept.


Special Floodplain Regulations:

Any development in the floodplain requires permits from the Building Department. This includes not just construction but fill, too. Virtually all of Etna is developed, so new construction is rare, but any improvements, additions or repairs that equal or exceed 50% of the value of the existing building is treated the same as new construction. Substantially improved or substantially damaged residential buildings must be elevated to or above the base flood elevation. To obtain a building permit, you must contact the borough office,(412) 781-0569.


Flood Insurance:

Homeowner's insurance does not cover damage from flooding. However, because Etna Borough participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, you may purchase a separate flood insurance policy. The other flyer explains flood insurance in detail.

Residents have purchased flood insurance because the bank required it when they got their mortgage or home improvement loan. These policies usually cover just the building's structure and not the contents. The typical flooding that occurs in Etna routinely causes more damage to furniture and contents than to the structure itself. If you are covered by flood insurance, check out the amount and make sure you have coverage for contents, too.


Etna Borough Flood Services:

Flood maps and flood protection references are available at the municipal building in the flood library section. There is no charge for the photocopying of this info. Reference material is also available at the Shaler North Hill Library on Mt. Royal Blvd. - just ask for the "Etna Flood Library" section.

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