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Flood fears rise

Melting, forecast cause concerns

Melting, forecast cause concerns

February 21, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Roads crews throughout Washington County concentrated on clearing storm drains Thursday in anticipation of a big thaw after this week's snowstorm.

Temperatures climbed to 46 degrees in Hagerstown by mid-afternoon, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site. The National Weather Service forecasted even milder temperatures for the weekend, with an 80 percent chance of rain tonight and Saturday.

The anticipated rain, on top of the melting snow, fueled concerns about flooding, and workers in most areas of Washington County were attempting to prevent problems.

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"There's plenty of concern about melting," Smithsburg Public Works Director Bill Loughridge said. "We've done what we can; all the storm drains are cleared." Loughridge said concerns remained about drainage in the Whispering Hills subdivision, where he said storm drainage "is just swales."

Funkstown Town Clerk Brenda Haynes said maintenance workers continued to remove snow Thursday, but all the storm drains were cleared.

"We also have the creek to worry about," she said, but otherwise, "we're doing fine."

Parking was still a challenge in Funkstown Thursday afternoon, as piles of snow covered the on-street parking spaces in the town's business district.

Gracie's Place had two of the handful of clear parking spaces.

"I had two angels," said owner Grace Hull. Regular customer Dan Fraley shoveled out the front, she said, and neighbor Larry Keplinger cleared the back. Funkstown residents who couldn't get out to grocery stores came in for staples like milk and eggs, Hull said.

Workers were "clearing out as many storm drains as we can" in Hancock, Town Manager Larry Logan said. "There's no pooling of water just at the moment," he said, adding that traffic in Hancock had "basically returned to normal."

But while crews continued removing snow, Logan said, "if we start pushing any more along the sides of the road, we're going to block people who've dug out. People are working on their roofs, especially if they have flat ones, in case we do get the rain."

This weekend will be the first major test of Sharpsburg's new storm drainage system, according to Vice Mayor Hal Spielman.

"We've opened up all the storm drains," Spielman said, "and we're working on the streets where the water runs down. We'll have to wait and see if this new stormwater thing works."

Workers planned to finish clearing streets Thursday evening, he said.

Streets were relatively dry in Williamsport, and Town Supervisor Jeff Long said the town's storm drains were clear.

"Basically we've hauled away 95 percent of the snow," Long said. "I wouldn't begin to estimate now how many loads of snow we've hauled out." Workers even moved residents' cars to clear the streets, he said.

"We just asked them for their keys and moved their cars for them," Long said.

Contract workers were scheduled to remove piles of snow in Keedysville, according to Town Clerk Amy Simmons.

"We have a few drains that we're gonna hit first thing in the morning," Simmons said. Keedysville residents helped clear streets, she said, and snow was being moved to vacant lots.

"Hopefully, we should be fine," Simmons said. "We have a plan - let's just hope the weather cooperates with it."

Crews in Hagerstown were still clearing city streets, Public Works Manager Eric Deike said. Snow was being moved to a lot across from his department's shop at the corner of Potomac Street and Memorial Boulevard, he said.

"We spent today concentrating on storm drains, and we got quite a few of them cleared," Deike said. "We'll work on them again tomorrow."

More street clearing was on the agenda for Thursday night, Deike said, including East Avenue. Residents were asked to move vehicles so road crews could remove remaining snow. Although the city had threatened to ticket vehicles still parked on posted streets, Deike was not sure if anyone had been ticketed.

"A lady called last night and explained that she couldn't physically dig her car out," Deike said, "so we told her we'd work around it."

Deike asked that anyone with storm drains make sure they were kept clear.

Smithsburg officials announced Thursday that an amnesty period for removing snow from sidewalks would end at 4 p.m. Saturday. A town ordinance requires snow and ice removal to be cleared from sidewalks bordering private properties 24 hours after precipitation stops. Violators may be fined.

Washington County Public Schools remained closed Thursday and will be closed again today.

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