Some Conshohocken renters suffer flood fatigue

Posted: September 10, 2011

In Conshohocken these days, the Schuylkill runs brown as a UPS truck, and nearly as fast.

Just yards from its banks sit the luxury Londonbury Apartments, many of whose residents evacuated in fear of flooding Thursday night - just as they did when Hurricane Irene hit late last month.

Though the river never crested to a predicted 201/2 feet, and no damage occurred from the epic rains of Tropical Storm Lee, the deluge did leave one distinct and detrimental effect at Londonbury:

Flood fatigue.

It's a good bet no tenants will be naming newborns Irene or Lee any time soon.

"I never thought the river would be such a factor in things," said Londonbury resident Allison Gold, 25, who fled Thursday night to her parents' house in Radnor. "My lease is up in April, and there's something in the back of my mind: Do I want to live on a river?"

Gold was in Paris when Irene threw its weight around.

Things were wetter then, with a foot of water ringing the 309-unit complex, where rents range from $1,400 to $4,500 a month, according to Robin Flagler, senior regional property manager.

"I don't know about flood fatigue," Flagler said. "This has been rain fatigue, though - 26 inches or so in 40 days. Two and a half hours to drive 10 miles. Everywhere you turn, you deal with water."

It's wearying. As a result, people in the area have come to regard the hard-running river as a brown and treacherous snake, capable of swiftly abominable behavior.

"You definitely get the sense that you don't know what this river will do," said Jennifer Altadonna, 26, who works in a nearby store. "You worry about the way it'll act, flash floods, all the variables. There's so much of the unknown."

One silver lining sewn into the endless cavalcade of gray clouds - Londonbury's learning curve for warning residents.

When Irene was coming, residents were asked to evacuate by leaflets slipped under their doors.

Many of the young, tech-savvy residents complained, saying it was inefficient.

So when Lee shot north, Flagler notified residents via e-mail, even including photos of the swelling river.

"They kept us updated and didn't create panic," Gold said. "They were great."

The Thursday evacuation went smoothly, Flagler said. "All our residents were understanding and levelheaded. It couldn't have gone better."

Having been tested in two successive emergencies, this corner of Conshohocken passed. But no one wants to see the Schuylkill rise to frighten the populace again.

Speaking for everyone, Flagler added: "Now the rain can stop. OK?"


Contact staff writer Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or alubrano@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "The Joint Custodian," at www.philly.com/jointcustodian.

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