WILKES-BARRE — Flood closure panels that nearly failed when rubber gaskets blew out during the historic September 2011 flood will continue to be used until they are repaired, officials said Tuesday during the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority meeting.
With the six-month hurricane season about to begin on June 1, concerns were raised about the integrity of the closure panels that are erected on both sides of the Market and Pierce street bridges in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston.
During the flood when the Susquehanna River crested at 42.66 feet, the water pressure blew out the rubber gaskets that seal the closure panels to the pavement, causing an enormous amount of leakage that flooded North and South River Streets in Wilkes-Barre.
At one point during the flood, Kingston Mayor James Haggerty said the river was three feet below the top of the closure panels.
County Assistant Engineer Chris Belleman said the closure panels worked as designed, noting repairs have not been made to the gaskets.
“We have to go with what we have originally,” Belleman said.
Belleman said the 2011 flood taught a lesson to better prepare the closure panels using more tarps and sandbags.
Road department crews in Kingston and Wilkes-Barre trucked in tons of rock that were dumped against the closure panels during the height of the flood.
In other business, Authority Board Chairman Stephen Urban said the deadline to accept resumes for the position of executive director for the flood authority will be extended. The position opened earlier this year when Jim Brozena retired after more than three decades of employment with the county.
The West Pittston resident served as county engineer from 1982 through May 2007, when he accepted a position as executive director of the Flood Protection Authority, which handles management of the Wyoming Valley Levee System and other flood-control projects.