The National Weather Service on Wednesday issued a flood watch and a flood warning for communities along the Susquehanna River in several counties, including Luzerne and Wyoming, as a potent storm approached the area.
The flood warning is to be in effect from late tonight to late Friday night, or until the warning is canceled.
Heavy rain and residual snow melt Wednesday night was expected to cause rises on area creeks, streams and rivers. The greatest risk for flooding will be localized flash flooding along small streams, as heavy rain over a short period causes rapid rises, and in urban areas, according to the NWS.
Main stem rivers will also rise, but only minor flooding is expected at this time.
The forecast for the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre frequently changed on Tuesday and Wednesday as the powerful storm approached the region. The weather service also issued a wind advisory until 7 tonight. Winds were expected to blow from the southwest 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45, NWS said.
Sudden rises and falls in the river level in Wilkes-Barre recorded Wednesday afternoon and evening most probably were caused by ice break-ups around the Market Street Bridge, said NWS spokesman Mike Nadolski.
The latest forecast Wednesday night called for the river to reach 22.9 feet sometime Friday morning, almost a foot above the natural flood stage of 22 feet.
At that height, only farmlands along the river become inundated.
Buildings and roads along the river in low-lying areas of Shickshinny and Plymouth Township become flooded when the river reaches 25 feet. At 29 feet, the river begins to flood River Road in Jenkins Township and state Route 11 in Shickshinny and Plymouth Township.
The river reaches the bottom of the portal doors at River Front Park along South and North River streets, Wilkes-Barre, at 32 feet.
Historical crest records from the Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center say the river has exceeded 22 feet in Wilkes-Barre 77 times since 1865.
The potent storm system was forecast to affect Central New York and Northeastern Pennsylvania Wednesday night, with potential for locally heavy rain and flash flooding, according to the NWS.
A strong cold front was to move through the area late Wednesday night, dropping temperatures rapidly toward freezing by this morning. Rain was expected to mix with and change over to snow by this morning.
Top 10 crests by the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre.
1. 42.66 ft on Sept. 9, 2011
2. 40.91 ft June 24, 1972
3. 35.06 ft Sept. 27, 1975
4. 34.96 ft Sept. 19, 2004
5. 34.45 ft Jan. 20, 1996
6. 34.14 ft June 28, 2006
7. 33.10 ft March 18, 1865
8. 33.07 ft March 20, 1936
9. 31.60 ft May 29, 1946
10. 31.50 ft April 01, 1940