As the rain continued to fall Friday night and our local waterways rose ever higher, emergency personnel sounded the alarm, alerting residents a flash flood warning was in effect.
Cue the thunder, lightning and blinding downpours.
All phones in my house began to blare with the emergency notification, a signal not easily ignored. Police and fire departments posted messages on social media to tell residents of road closings due to creeks and streams spilling over their banks.
In the Lehigh Valley, 3-plus inches of rain had fallen from noon Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday.
Whitehall Township’s Water Street, Eberhart Road and Lehigh Street, in the area of Hokendauqua Park, were closed, as was Route 512, between Jaindl Boulevard and Silver Creek Road in East Allen Township.
The Catasauqua Creek overflowed into Catty’s municipal pool, forcing its closing and that of the entire adjoining park and playground.
By Saturday morning, news reports told of motorists having to be rescued from their vehicles because they chose, instead of heeding the countless warnings, to proceed around barricades placed across the roadways. Why these drivers ignored the warnings is up for debate - Did they think their vehicle was unlike any other and could easily get through? Did they think the barricade was installed for all other drivers, but not them? Did they simply think they knew more than the emergency personnel who are trained to make these decisions?
Whatever the drivers’ rationale, it’s possible our Press staff have photos of their vehicles floating in the roadway, their tires barely visible, as we traveled the region surveying the damage.
It’s also possible these drivers will have a little less money in their bank accounts.
According to state law, it is illegal to ignore barricades and warning lights. Motorists caught going around them will pay a fine up to $250.
Double that if emergency responders have to come to their aid and/or provide medical treatment or if their car has to be towed from the scene. They will also have to pay for the emergency responders’ expenses.
And they will get two points on their driving record.
Is it really worth it?
The recklessness of these drivers put not only their own safety in jeopardy, but also that of all the people who were called into action to help them. It interrupted the weekend of our police officers, firefighters and fire police, who had to assist in their rescue despite having placed those barricades earlier. It also likely caused further delays in opening the roadways as any debilitated vehicles had to first be removed.
As I write this, the sun is finally shining. But more rain is expected this week. Fingers crossed, it’s just a drizzle. But if Mother Nature decides instead on a deluge that forces a repeat performance of this past weekend, please, drivers, heed the warnings and steer clear of barricades.
Think first about the emergency responders, who more than likely are volunteers, uncompensated for their efforts.
Think about your vehicle, which could be damaged by all that water.
Think about your checkbook. The summary offense of ignoring the warnings carries a hefty price tag.
And think about your driving record. Those two points could remain with you for three long years.
Is it really worth it?