The annual Memorial Day ceremony scheduled to be held in Kittanning Riverfront Park was moved to higher ground yesterday because of flooding.
For the past 11 years, the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War John T. Crawford Camp #43 has held an 11AM Memorial Day ceremony at the Murtha Amphitheater in the Park.
However, yesterday was different. Shortly before 7AM, the Allegheny River water level rose to first stage flood level, covering the sidewalk under the bridge. Within 20 minutes, the sidewalk was under water up to the staircase to the pavilion.
Before 9AM, water began covering the deck of the amphitheater, fully engulfing it to the first row of seats within just one hour.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Joe Palko was monitoring water levels from the NWS Pittsburgh office.
“There was a lot of rain upstream on the Allegheny Sunday and Sunday night. In the Kittanning area, we had about two inches,” he reported. “But farther north around Franklin and areas in Clarion, Forrest, and Venango counties, they were deluged with three to four inches, and some places, as much as five inches.”
Palko said the Allegheny River was primed by runoff from streams and creeks, causing flash flooding in Kittanning.
“It takes a little bit of time for that water to work down. The river gauge at Kittanning was rising rapidly early Monday morning. It went up about four feet in a matter of about six hours. The normal stage prior to this rain, the river was running at about eleven-and-a-half feet at Kittanning. From 6AM until Noon, it rose all the way up to almost 16 feet. That’s a rapid increase.”
Residents along the river began stabilization procedures to made sure their docks did not float downstream, including patio furniture and ornaments. There was one report of a boat that had to be rescued because it became unhooked from its dock.
Palko said flash flooding can occur at any time during the season.
“We’re into the summertime weather pattern where we will get showers and thunderstorms pop up. Even though you may not be getting a lot of rain where you are at, your neighbor 20 miles away may be getting a deluge.”
The flooding did not affect the 43 units that were a part of the Memorial Day Parade. Organizers worked during the parade to move the ceremony location to the pavilion at the top of the riverbank in the Park, far above the threat of flooding. Hundreds of veterans and family members were there to participate in the 40-minute ceremony that included honoring POW/MIA veterans by the Civil Air Patrol, and a Keynote Address by E-5 Sergeant Heith Johns who is a U.S. Army Iraq Veteran.
Both the parade and the ceremony were broadcast live on Family-Life TV and also WTYM AM 1380 radio.