A sunny, crisp, December morning greeted us. Trees and shrubs outlined by the white sparkles of heavy frost only early winter can deliver. It was going to be a good day for outdoor work, the kind when staying warm required only a few light layers once your body started moving. As the vegetation management crews moved their trucks into position and began their job site assessments, I couldn’t help to think about the ugly conditions that had brought us to this quiet south-central Pennsylvania hollow.
On Labor Day weekend of 2018, a record-setting storm delivered 12 inches of rain in just three hours to areas already flirting with yearly rainfall records. The saturated ground had no room to spare and area creeks and rivers rose to record heights in hours, destroying roadways, bridges, and washing away homes. One victim of this surprise flood was the Ma & Pa Railroad Heritage Village located in the village of Muddy Creek Forks, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the historic Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad.
The site had flooded buildings and essential equipment buried in mud. Restoration projects were damaged by the high water and the heavy debris it brought with it. Most of all, sections of track that the group relies on to give educational tours were lost, further compounding their ability to generate revenue for recovery. I had visited this location only a day after the water receded and was in awe of the power such a mild trout creek could muster. Mud, twelve inches deep in some areas, and debris was everywhere including large trees that had succumbed to the angry torrents. Later I would find out this was the worst flooding the museum has suffered since 1933. However, this was a local event, in a quiet, rural, and humble setting that is easily overlooked and rarely creates news.
They needed help, but how?
With a few calls to my division manager and the organization’s leaders, we agreed to set a date for crews to help remove fallen or hazardous trees once the conditions proved safe.
On December 10th of 2018, with a pair of 3-person bucket crews, we were able to contribute to the long recovery. A satisfying mood could be felt among the team members as tasks were smoothly performed in what would be a day different from standard utility work. I’m pleased to say several large hazardous trees including one that had fallen and was channeling creeks waters onto the property were removed with plenty of firewood logs left for future activities.
There was no big crowd or any news crews, just a group of professional workers, a pizza lunch, and the gratitude of local non-profit to acknowledge their efforts. Like the creek waters that came up and receded so quickly, our Lewis crews arrived, assisted as we know best, and quietly returned to the daily duties.
I would invite any foreman, supervisor, or Lewis employee to take a close look at your community and seek out the overlooked or forgotten people and places. To build that community connection and see where just a little help can prove to be the best medicine.
Top photo (left to right): Ronaldo Gomez Roche, Jose Gomez Rivera, Carlos de Jesus, David Quesenberry, and Jose Soto Hernandez