5 dead amid flooding in Pennsylvania, with 2 children reported missing, officials say

Flash flooding caught people on the road by surprise, police said.

July 16, 2023, 5:10 PM

Five people have died and as many as two people remain unaccounted for after torrential rain caused flash flooding in Upper Makefield Township in Pennsylvania Saturday, officials in Bucks County said Sunday.

Authorities are still searching for two siblings: a 9-month-old boy and a 2-year-old girl.

An adult female who was previously missing was found on Sunday afternoon, Upper Makefield Fire Chief Tim Brewer told reporters during a news conference.

Many of the victims belong to the same family who were in town from Charleston, South Carolina, to visit relatives, Brewer said. They were driving to a barbeque when they were swept away, Brewer said.

The father and 4-year-old son were able to escape the floodwaters, but the mother, grandmother and two other children were not, Brewer said.

"We cannot even begin to imagine what the family is going through with two beautiful children gone," the fire chief said.

The worst of the flooding occurred along Route 532, between Aqueduct Road and Wrightstown Road, police said. The flash flooding caught many people on the road by surprise, and several people were trapped in their vehicles, according to the Upper Makefield Township Police Department.

PHOTO: The aftermath of flooding in Pennsylvania on Saturday, July 15, is seen in this photo supplied by Nick Primola.
The aftermath of flooding in Pennsylvania on Saturday, July 15, is seen in this photo supplied by Nick Primola.
Nick Primola

Authorities said they were able to save one woman who was trapped in her vehicle. None of the victims have been publicly identified at this time.

Five feet of water rose from the Houghs Creek onto the road, Brewer said. "It was violent and fast moving."

Eleven vehicles were found in the water, and authorities watched as three of them were swept away. One of the vehicles was found 1.5 miles away from where it originally went into the creek, the fire chief said.

Search efforts will continue Sunday for the three people who remain unaccounted for, though Brewer said he is "fairly certain" that it will become a recovery mission.

Multiple roadways are closed at this time due to heavy debris.

"I thought Hurricane Ida was the benchmark, last September or the September before for sure, I thought that it was the benchmark. This is a new benchmark," Brewer said. "In my 44 years, I've never seen anything like it."

FEMA is on hand and has authorized the deployment of 23 search and rescue personnel from Pennsylvania Task Force One, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro told reporters during a press conference on Friday.

"We are concerned about some additional bad weather this evening," Shapiro warned.

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