May 09--A week after some of the worst flooding in the area in recent memory, the Schuylkill is ready to host the largest collegiate rowing competition in the country, the Dad Vail Regatta.
Friday and Saturday's competition comes after crews spent nearly a week clearing tons of debris along the Kelly and Martin Luther King Jr. Drives and from the swollen river itself.
"We've been working on the cleanup since the storm last week," Mark Focht, Philadelphia's first deputy commissioner for parks and recreation, said Thursday.
The storm produced 4.81 inches of rain in Philadelphia on April 30 and May 1, flooding both drives. The Schuylkill crested at 13.91 feet at 4 a.m.May 1. Minor flooding occurs at 11 feet and moderate flooding at 13 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
"We did a lot of sweeping of the trails and parking lots in advance of them setting up for the Dad Vail today," Focht said, adding that the work was completed Tuesday. "We had quite a bit of debris, trash, woody debris, tree limbs and branches, stuff like that."
Focht hailed workers from the Parks and Recreation, Streets, and Water Departments.
"Considering the severity of the storm, the staff responded admirably and had the thing well under control," Focht said.
The flooding also took a toll on the Fairmount Water Works.
Joanne Dahme, general manager of the Water Department, said the interpretive center has been closed since May 1.
The exhibits are designed to handle flooding, but the storm brought "a lot of mud, twigs, and other trash that gets washed in," she said.
Water Department crews have been removing heavy materials and a private crew is handling the cleaning and sanitizing of the building, Dahme said.
The Water Works is expected to reopen early next week.
Upstream at King Drive and Black Road, the flooding washed away a newly installed, 60-foot wooden dock for dragon boat teams.
Emilia Rastrick, president of Schuylkill Paddlers Inc., said her group of four dragon boat teams raised $38,000 for the dock, installed April 21. Now the group is wrestling with how to replace it.
"We are looking at what our insurance options are," Rastrick said.
With more than 120 colleges and universities expected to participate, organizers of the 76th annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta say they anticipate strong competition and lots of family fun.
"The competition is going to be very heated," said Jim Hanna, president of the regatta organizing committee. "The kids can't wait to come to Philadelphia and race, and we're committed to providing the best regatta event kids can enjoy in the United States."
As collegiate teams began to set up along the river Thursday, Focht was pleased.
"Our big focus has been on the Schuylkill and getting ready for the Dad Vail," he said. "We're all ready now."
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