Potomac weathers spring rains

May 15, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

Abundant spring rains pushed the Potomac River above flood stage at only one point in the Tri-State area - at Shepherdstown, W.Va. - earlier this week before the river began receding.

On Monday morning, the National Weather Service River Forecast division gauges registered 15.5 feet at Shepherdstown, 6 inches above flood stage, said Chris Strong, weather service meteorologist.

"At midday Wednesday, the Potomac at Shepherdstown was back down to 8.3 feet," Strong said.

So far in May, 2.27 inches of rain have fallen in the Hagerstown area, according to the Web site of Greg Keefer, Hagerstown weather observer. That brings the total precipitation so far in 2003 to 16.85 inches.


During the first four months of last year, only 9.57 inches of precipitation had fallen, heralding the onset of drought conditions that plagued growers and municipal water suppliers well into the winter of 2002-2003.

While some low-lying areas were affected by the high water, Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications dispatchers couldn't recall any emergency flooding calls in recent days.

Kevin Brandt, assistant superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, said the canal and towpath have been spared any significant damage from the high water.

"There has been a little debris and some mud around some boat ramps but we are not anticipating any problems," Brandt said.

Spring rain is fairly normal, Brandt said.

In contrast, the damage caused by the flood of 1996 is still being felt along the canal.

Officials who administer the 184.5-mile-long park are awaiting the start of an estimated $10 million rebuilding project of 1.5 miles of towpath at Big Slackwater, which was heavily damaged seven years ago, Brandt said.

Other Potomac River levels at midday Wednesday, crests and flood stages include:

  • Hancock at 10 feet; crested at 18.9 feet on May 11. Flood stage there is 30 feet.

  • Paw Paw, W.Va. at 12 feet; crested at 22.2 feet on May 11. Flood stage there is 25 feet.

  • Harpers Ferry, W.Va. at 8.1 feet; crested May 12 at 13.3 feet. Flood stage there is 18 feet.

  • Williamsport at 6.8 feet; crested May 11 at 15 feet. Flood stage there is 26 feet.

  • Point of Rocks at 7.7 feet; crested May 12 at 13.5 feet. Flood stage there is 16 feet.
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