Tropical Storm Lee Flood Summary

On Wednesday, September 7, 2011, remnants of Tropical Storm Lee began moving through Northeastern PA.  The storm dropped record breaking rains over a 3-day period effecting riverside communities in the Wyoming Valley and surrounding communities.  Wide-spread flooding occurred across the county and the state.

During this time, the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency activated its Emergency Operations Center to supply resources to local municipalities to aid in flood response activities.  On Thursday, September 8, 2011, the National Weather Service projected a Susquehanna River crest of 39.6 feet at Wilkes-Barre, for Friday morning.  Based on this information, County officials made the decision to order a mandatory evacuation for the Wyoming Valley beginning at 4 pm Thursday.  Approximately 100,000 residents would be evacuated.  The river had crested early Friday morning, September 8, 2011 at 42.66 feet.  This surpassed the previous flood of record set during the Tropical Storm Agnes event in June 1972 at 40.91 feet.

The Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority, with the assistance of the Luzerne County Road & Bridge Department, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Pennsylvania National Guard, and many other community entities worked throughout the duration of the emergency high-water event performing flood fighting operations and responding to problem areas that developed at several locations behind the 16-mile Wyoming Valley Flood Risk Management Project.

The flood waters began to recede and residents in the protected areas were allowed to return to their homes Saturday afternoon.  The Wyoming Valley flood protection system performed as designed and is estimated to have prevented approximately $5 billion in property damages.  Unfortunately, not all areas of the Wyoming Valley escaped unharmed.  Nearly 3,000 properties in unprotected communities were flooded.

The Wyoming Valley flood protection system was designed to prevent the re-occurrence of an Agnes level flood event.  Although the flood protection system was subjected to stresses greater than what it was designed for, the project performed admirably and flood damages to the protected areas were minimal.