In Manayunk, an angry river comes calling

Posted: May 03, 2014

Jon Cordo and Glenna Breslin moved to the Venice Lofts for the ambience - a mix of Industrial Age textile mills and modern amenities, nestled between the Schuylkill and the Manayunk Canal.

"We wanted water views," Cordo said Thursday as rescue workers were evacuating his neighbors from the flooded island.

"We have them now."

The couple had experience with rising waters - they'd weathered Hurricane Sandy in Hoboken, N.J. But that October 2012 disaster gave enough advance notice for them to stock up on wine and bottled water. Wednesday night's breach of the Schuylkill happened in a flash.

Around 9:30, they said, water washed over the banks and headed for their home of the last month.

"It came up really fast," said Breslin, 29, a nurse, who had been taking a class at the University of Pennsylvania earlier in the night.

Around 10, the couple watched as a few trucks, parked at the north end of the Island, started pulling out for higher ground, creating rippling wakes that caused residents to call out in fear.

Then a SEPTA bus followed the trucks' lead. Cordo saw the front wheels rise as the bus started to founder. A driver and two passengers clambered to the roof, awaiting firefighters who had been called to the island.

Cordo, 30, who works in financial services, said a firefighter told him that the three people on the bus roof jumped into the water before rescue boats could get to them, but no one was injured.

The couple tried to find a room at a Center City hotel, but all were sold out, Cordo said. They found lodging in Wilmington along with their cat, a gray tabby named Kumi.

Sarah Wylie wasn't about to flee. She didn't have a carrier for her cat, Chase, so the 32-year-old cook left it in her Venice Lofts apartment along with 100 fish.

She was standing nervously outside the building Thursday morning, her Yorkshire terrier, Jake, tethered by her side as rescue workers continued to ferry her neighbors on inflatable boats.

Wednesday night, she took Jake for a walk. About 15 minutes later, a neighbor approached, telling her the water was starting to rise and cars were starting to flood. Time to get out, the neighbor advised.

"I didn't want to leave," Wylie said. "My cat, my dog - that's my family."

As she spoke, State Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio was gathering intelligence about the water. She'd driven from Harrisburg to check on her district and was surprised by the extent of the damage. Main Street between Shurs Lane and Ridge Avenue suffered the worst, as usual, she said.

"I haven't seen flooding like this since Hurricane Floyd in 1999," she said. "This is one angry river."


jlin@phillynews.com215-854-5659 @j_linq

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