It’s been more than a week since Hurricane Harvey dumped a record-setting amount of rain on the Houston area, resulting in an epic flood and numerous deaths. And as eyes turn toward another strengthening storm in the Atlantic–Hurricane Irma–the dangers of flooding remain foremost in many people’s minds.
Although the likelihood of 52 inches of rain falling on the Saucon Valley as a result of a single storm is a near-statistical impossibility according to most meteorologists, a new mapping tool created by the Washington Post and Mapzen allows users to see how deep the water would be in their neighborhood if it ever did happen. To be precise, it tells you what the depth of water would be at a specific point if 51.88 inches of rain–more than the area typically receives in an entire year–fell, with each map point representing one square yard of surface area.
Unlike in southeastern Texas, where flat terrain allowed moderately deep water to evenly cover vast areas, the Lehigh Valley’s hills mean some spots would remain high and dry after four feet of rain, while others would be under 10 or more feet of water.
For example, the major intersection of Main and Water streets in Hellertown would be under more than seven feet of water, according to the interactive map.
Other traditionally flood-prone areas of Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township would be covered by similarly deep flood waters. For example, according to the mapping tool:
- In the Shoppes at Hellertown parking lot at Main Street and Polk Valley Road, the water depth would be approximately 9 feet.
- By the historic Meadows Road Bridge across the Saucon Creek–just west of Rt. 412–the water would be about 10.5 feet deep.
- At the low-lying intersection of Friedensville and Bingen roads the water’s depth would be more than 9 feet.
- At Bingen and Black River roads in Lower Saucon Township–near the newly-built Bingen Road bridge–the water’s depth would be about 10.5 feet.
- At Rt. 378 and Black River Road–a busy commercial intersection in the western part of the township–the depth of floodwaters would be nearly 10 feet.
- At the intersection of Lower Saucon and Easton roads (Kunsman’s Corners) the depth of the flood would be more than 11 feet.
- At the Leithsville Fire Station on Rt. 412 in Lower Saucon Township the water depth would be more than 9 feet.
- At Bingen Road and Reading Drive in the township the depth of flood waters would be nearly 8.5 feet.
Important places in the area such as the Hellertown Post Office and Giant Food Store–the community’s only sizable grocery store–would be under more than 8 feet of water.
And even parts of the borough’s elevated Mountainview neighborhood would be under as much as 5.8 feet of water (at the intersection of Willow and Juniper roads).
By contrast, high points in the township such as the University Heights neighborhood atop South Mountain and the intersection of Wassergass and Lower Saucon roads would have no standing water at all, according to the map.
The most recent widespread flooding in the Hellertown area occurred when the remnants of Hurricane Irene swept through the Mid-Atlantic in late August 2011.
Seven years earlier, a more serious flood occurred when Hurricane Ivan’s remains dropped more than eight inches of rain overnight. Flooding ravaged parts of the borough, including businesses in the 600 block of Main Street and the Hellertown Pool, which was closed for nearly two years due to the damage it sustained.
How deep would the water be at your house, according to this map? Tell us in the comments.