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Stadium flooded

June 28, 1999

Local floodingBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




Monday's rainfall was brief but heavy enough to flood Hagerstown Municipal Stadium and the Hagerstown Spring Works next door.

About 1.24 inches of rain fell in Hagerstown in about 20 minutes, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer.

The heavy rain briefly flooded some intersections as storm drains struggled to keep up with the rising water.

"We were entirely flooded here," said Henry Porter, director of stadium operations for the Hagerstown Suns. "As you can see with the dugout here, we have no dugout."

Water filled both of the stadium's dugouts, which are about 4 or 5 feet high.

Fifteen minutes after the rain stopped, large puddles remained in the infield and small drains in the outfield struggled to filter out the water that drenched the outfield.

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Groundskeepers surveyed the aftermath Monday afternoon, unable to do much before the water filtered out.

"I would hate for this to have been a game day," Porter said. "If this had been a game day, heck, we'd have been in trouble."

If the heavy rain had come down during a game, the rising water could have posed a safety problem, Porter said. He pointed to the ground under the bleachers, where 2 or 3 feet of water stood.

The situation was not much better at Hagerstown Spring Works Co. on East Baltimore Street next to the stadium.

"It knocked us out of business for two hours, three hours. It will probably be drying out for the next three or four days," said Phil Physioc Sr., president of the auto repair shop.

Physioc said his employees scrambled to gather welders and other tools as water seeped into the garage.

The flooding was mild compared to that accompanying some past storms. In 1996, flood waters submerged about a dozen vehicles that had been in the shop, Physioc said.

Henry Physioc, the company's manager, said there have been eight to 10 flooding instances over the last decade or so. He said the flooding problem has caused the shop to lose its insurance for vehicles under repair.

"Every time we have a storm, it does damage. Our walls rot out," he said.

Phil Physioc said the problem stems from the building's location and the city's drainage system. The shop sits on one of they city's lowest points and water from other parts of town flows toward it.

The drainage system compounds the problem, he said.

In the mid-1980s, when the city remodeled Municipal Stadium, engineers narrowed an aqueduct that runs between the two properties in order to expand parking, Physioc said.

As a result, the aqueduct overflows more easily, he said.

"They shot themselves in the foot, and everybody else close by," he said.

Suns officials are no happier. Porter pointed to small pipes draining water throughout the outfield.

"For the amount of water we've got, it's just ineffective," he said.

Three years ago, heavy rains knocked down a wall along the left field line. Flooding damaged the Suns offices down the right field line twice in the last three years. Porter said the water began to recede Monday just before it reached the building.

"It was real close to coming in," he said.

Suns officials have pointed to the flooding problem as one of the main reasons the team needs a new stadium.

Modern stadiums are designed with a slight elevation in the center of the field to push rain water off to the sides and large drainage pipes quickly remove excess water, Porter said.

It also helps that most new stadiums are not built in flood plains, he said.

Farmers were happy to see rain, although Monday's storm was not ideal, agriculture experts said.

"Any rain is welcome It does some good," said Jeff Semler, a Washington County agricultural extension agent. "Steady rain over a period of hours is preferred."

Precipitation so far this month is slightly below normal. Semler said the water table is low because rainfall has been lower than normal for several months.

During periods of prolonged drought, the ground hardens and takes longer for water to penetrate, Semler said. During a driving rain like Monday's, much of the water runs off and evaporates before it can soak the ground, he said.

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