Community Police Public Safety Weather

‘Life-Threatening’ Flooding Under Way in Northampton, Lehigh Cos.

Flooding Lower Saucon

As the remnants of Hurricane Ida pressed eastward across Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon, rainfall rates steadily increased across the Lehigh Valley, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood warning for Northampton, Lehigh, Bucks and Montgomery counties, along with parts of surrounding counties.

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A muddy, churning Saucon Creek was quickly rising underneath the Water Street Bridge in Hellertown around 5:15 p.m., as many commuters struggled to drive home in extremely heavy rain caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. By late afternoon, most local roads remained open, although many were covered by significant amounts of rising water.

As the remnants of Hurricane Ida pressed slowly eastward across Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon, rainfall rates steadily increased across the Lehigh Valley, prompting the National Weather Service to issue and update a flash flood warning for Northampton, Lehigh, Bucks and Montgomery counties, along with parts of surrounding counties.

The warning was first issued by the NWS office at Mt. Holly around 4:15 p.m., when it said “flash flooding is ongoing or expected to begin shortly” in the warned areas.

The intersection of Main and Water Streets was under water by early evening. (Contributed photo)

Stormwater runoff was quickly accumulating in the low-lying intersection of Polk Valley Road and Main Street, on the border between Hellertown borough and Lower Saucon Township, by late afternoon Wednesday.

Flooding Lower Saucon

Flash flooding was occurring along Black River Road (pictured above at Dickinson Lane) in Lower Saucon Township, where township police were turning drivers around near the I-78 overpass.

By around 5:15 p.m. there was standing water on lower Main Street and many other roads in Hellertown borough, Lower Saucon Township and beyond. The water in some cases prompted drivers to reduce their speed, which was happening at the flood-prone intersection of Main Street and Polk Valley Road on the border of the two municipalities.

Lower Saucon Township Police issued a statement around 5:30 p.m. in which they asked residents to stay home “unless you absolutely need to be out.”

Gutters in the 600 block of Main Street in Hellertown were overflowing by late afternoon.

The parking lot between Wells Fargo, St. Paul United Methodist Church and Saucon Manor in Hellertown was flooded by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. This photo was taken from an upper-story apartment in Saucon Manor early Wednesday evening.


The flash flood warning–initially in effect until 8:15 p.m.–was extended to 11 p.m. shortly before 6 o’clock, when the National Weather Service confirmed that “life-threatening…flash flooding is already occurring” in the Lehigh Valley area and beyond.

Some events scheduled for Wednesday evening were canceled or postponed because of the rainstorm and the potential for flooding to occur.

A Lower Saucon Township Council meeting that was to be held at Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. was postponed until Thursday, Sept. 9, at the same time.

Around Hellertown borough, in historically flood-prone areas like the 600 block of Main Street, some property owners had stacked sandbags in front of doorways and air conditioning units or were keeping them at the ready nearby.

lash Flood Northampton Lehigh

Sandbags were seen piled in front of an air conditioning unit in the 600 block of Main Street, in Hellertown borough, to protect it from forecast flash flooding Wednesday. The low-lying section of Rt. 412 most recently experienced flash flooding in August 2020, when the remnants of Hurricane Isaias dumped a large amount of rain in a short period of time.

Parts of the 600 block of Main Street were flooded in early August 2020, when the remnants of Hurricane Isaias dumped nearly six inches of rain on the Hellertown area.

The flooding in that area is caused by the Silver Creek, which is buried under Main Street and passes beneath several adjacent structures, however the nearby Saucon Creek is also prone to flood.

>>Below, video of the creek as it appeared around 5:15 p.m., as very heavy rain fell across the Saucon Valley area.

Meadows Road residents who live near the closed Meadows Road Bridge just south of Hellertown expressed concern Tuesday, after more of the bridge’s north-facing stone wall collapsed into the creek. They said they feared the growing rubble pile would impede the flow of water under the bridge, exacerbating flooding in what is already a vulnerable area.

The National Weather Service is predicting a total of four to six inches of rain from Ida will inundate much of eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey, with higher amounts possible in some locations.

“Numerous instances of flash flooding are likely through predawn Thursday, with some events possibly significant, since the ground is saturated from recent heavy rain events,” it said in a briefing Wednesday morning.

The dash from the parking lot to Giant supermarket on Rt. 412 in Lower Saucon Township was enough to completely drench shoppers brave enough to venture out in what had become an increasingly dangerous deluge by late Wednesday afternoon.

Sustained high winds aren’t in the forecast for Pennsylvania, but there is a slight risk of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes Wednesday evening from Allentown south to the northern suburbs of Philadelphia, where that risk will be higher. A tornado watch for southeastern Pennsylvania issued by the NWS is in effect through 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Only spotty power outages were being reported by PPL as of late Wednesday afternoon.

The NWS also predicted some river flooding in the area, particularly along the Lehigh.

A flood warning has been issued for the Lehigh River at Bethlehem, which as of 3:30 p.m. was at 4.8 feet and forecast to crest three feet above flood stage Thursday morning.

Flood stage for the river at Bethlehem is 16 feet.

At 15.5 feet, Sand Island Recreational Area in Bethlehem is flooded, the National Weather Service warned. In the same statement, the agency compared the forecast crest to a historic crest of 18.7 feet, which it said occurred in Bethlehem on Aug. 24, 1933.

The river is expected to fall below flood stage by Thursday afternoon.

The majority of deaths in flooding events occur when people drive across flooded roadways, and public safety officials continued to remind residents to “turn around, don’t drown” if the encounter standing water while driving.

Flooding was also occurring in Springfield Township, Bucks County, as documented by a resident on the social media app Nextdoor.

Flood Northampton Lehigh

A vehicle turns left off Rt. 412 (Leithsville Road) onto Mount Pleasant Road in Lower Saucon Township Wednesday afternoon, as rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida intensified across the area, amplifying flooding concerns.

A picnic table in the aptly-named Water Street Park was not the place to be on Wednesday afternoon, as a steady rain turned into a relentless deluge, and flash flooding threatened to inundate low-lying areas such as the creekside park.

Windshield wipers were getting a workout by late Wednesday afternoon, as the evening rush hour became extremely trying for many motorists due to heavy rain. By around 5:30 p.m., stormwater runoff was also beginning to submerge roadways and sidewalks. Pictured above: Vehicles wait at the light at Water and Main streets in downtown Hellertown borough.

The flood-swollen Black River was rapidly encroaching on Friedensville Road in Lower Saucon Township around 6 p.m.

Low-lying Seneca Street in Fountain Hill looked more like a stream by early Wednesday evening.

Flooding in the 600 block of Main Street in Hellertown borough was severe enough to float a dumpster into the middle of the road. (Contributed photo)

A Hellertown public works crew works to remove the dumpster from the 600 block of Main Street, after floodwaters receded somewhat. (Contributed photo)

Flooding behind the 600 block of Main Street, near Water Street. (Contributed photo)

Flooding of the Black River was occurring along Bingen Road in Lower Saucon Township around 6 p.m. Township police urged residents to stay home and off the roads, some of which had to be closed by early evening due to flash flooding.

The standing water on thoroughfares like Friedensville Road was growing deep by early Wednesday evening. Pictured above, the side of the road in the City of Bethlehem–near Lehigh’s Goodman Campus–looked more like a waterway around 6 p.m.


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

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