Text and images © 2006 John B. Blackford. Do not reproduce without express written permission. All rights reserved.
Flooding Returns to the Delaware River But residents are better prepared
By John Blackford, 7/05/06

Weary residents moved quickly in response to warnings of a third flood in less than two years along the Delaware River. This time, there was little hesitation as homeowners did all they could to limit damage.

Laurie Giddio, co-manager of the Riegelsville Inn, had the furnace removed, having lost the previous one to flooding last year. Other local business owners moved everything possible to higher ground. A Riegelsville fireworks franchise located beside Muellers Country Store on Rt. 611 packed everying into a moving van, as did the owners of an ice cream stand on Rt. 611, north of Raubsville, Pa.

This time, there were plenty of folks willing to help out. A local electrician went around Riegelsville, removing circuit breakers, which are vulnerable to water damage. Stem Brothers home heating showed residents how to remove key parts of their furnace burners. A piano tuner removed a client's baby grand, said Luann Sassaman, who left her own daughter's piano in the livingroom, not knowing about the helpful piano man. Friends and relatives helped remove all Sassaman's other first-floor furniture, and the flood didn't harm the piano.

The ground floor of the Riegelsville home next to the bridge was flooded, and the basement apartment was completely submerged, said Dave Frushon, a friend of the owner who was busy getting the muck out of the house.

For some, the flood warnings were a rude suprise. Mary, owner of Muellers, was on a Carribean cruise when she happened to glance at the TV. There was the Riegelsville bridge, nearly under water. She decided to think positive and wait. Next day, she found out that the flood had not reached the store, so she could go back to relaxing.

Tammy Heindrich and family, of Riegelsville, were in New England on vacation when they heard about the flood warnings. Then it started to rain in Vermont. Neighbors did what they could to protect the Heindrich's house and only the basement was flooded, but the vacation had to be cut short.

South of town, Bob and Ilse Weinbel began cleaning out the Great American Grill for the third time in two years. They removed four inches of mud with pressure hoses and began cleaning and disinfecting all the surfaces, in preparation to having the floors torn out and other renovations done for a possible reopening several weeks hence. The building had a buyer, and for now, he plans to go through with the sale in September, said Bob.

Many homeowners along the river have had enough. Riegelsville Borough Council president Tom Stinnett said an elderly resident put up a For Sale sign even before the waters had receded. Several other homes are on the market, but getting a buyer may be difficult. This raises the prospect of an increasing transient community in town, should unsold homes turn into rental properties. At least, that concern was offered by Riegelsville Planning Commissioner Peter Ryan at the borough's July meeting.

Ashley Deveopment Also under discussion at the meeting was a proposed eight-unit development by Ashley Developmet, on property directly in the flood plain. Given recent events--and the possibility mentioned at the meeting that driveways and parking lots increase runoff and contribute to flooding--borough residents are opposed to the project. A standing-room audience of about 50 showed up to challenge the plan, and Bucks County Commissioner James Cawley came to express support. Cawley suggested that county, state, and federal officials will be sympathetic to Riegelsville's need to limit development on the flood plain.

The planning commission voted unaminously to recommend that the borough council block the development, at least until more is known about its impact on the community, vulnerability to flooding, and the possible impact of required septic systems close to the borough's number-three well.

Live at Five!
The media was all over the story of the flood, but after the cameras were packed up and gone, residents along the river still had plenty to deal with.
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A boat on Rt. 611 floats free
Residents pitch in at Raubsville
The same boat after the flood.
A home being put on stilts survived the flood
Great American Grill after the flood
Unsung hero: Bob Nice is a ham operator who helped with emergency communications
(l-r) Angelo and Vincent Morrongiello and Melinda Nemeth move fireworks