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Ice, rain bring flooding

February 07, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Instead of seeing the pavement in front of her Carroll Heights Boulevard home, Beverly Bowers only could see a slushy stream flowing into a small, but growing pond a few feet from her front yard.

Bowers, 53, said the North End road is prone to flooding problems, but the biggest problems occur when snow piles up around a drain.

"Especially if it freezes. It's going to be a real problem, like a little river here," Bowers said.

Beginning Thursday night and continuing into Friday, the latest winter weather system to hit the area brought freezing rain, then rain, for a total of more than 2 inches of precipitation.

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As a result of the storm, West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise declared a state of emergency in Berkeley County on Friday.

Ice-coated trees fell on roads and power lines were knocked down in the Eastern Panhandle on Friday, leaving thousands without electricity, said Steve Allen, director of the Berkeley County Office of Emergency Services.

Allen said he contacted the Red Cross in case shelters needed to be opened for people still without power as night fell.

The weather system also brought down power and phone lines in Washington County.

Hagerstown City Light Manager Mike Spiker said about 80 customers lost power throughout the day, while Allegheny Power spokesman Allen Staggers said about 5,100 customers had lost power. As of 11 p.m., 2,500 Allegheny customers still didn't have power.

Verizon spokeswoman Sandra Arnette said the company had received more than 20 calls for problems with service, mostly in Hagerstown and Hancock.

With a snow and rain storm as recently as Tuesday, and measured snow or ice at least once a week since Jan. 13, snow continues to block drains, parking spaces and walkways, adding a twist to an increasing problem.

Officials with the City of Hagerstown and Washington County continue to ask residents to assist in removing snow from drains to reduce flooding.

"We have a lot of high water signs" posted, County Highway Director Ted Wolford said.

Wolford said there were flooding issues throughout the county, as well as reports of downed trees.

According to the Washington County Health Department, there also was a problem with the Hagerstown wastewater treatment plant. Due to flooding, some partially treated wastewater was released into Antietam Creek. The department asked that creek users avoid the creek between the treatment plant and Beaver Creek.

River or creek flooding was not yet a problem by late afternoon in Berkeley County, but Allen said the National Weather Service had issued a flood warning. Some urban flooding was present, with pools of water partially covering streets.

Emergency crews responded to fender benders, calls for flooded basements and people sliding off the roads, but nothing serious, Allen said.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. E. Boober said the Martinsburg barrack was without power for about an hour Friday morning. Aside from minor accidents, he said problems were few.

"(It's) not as bad as I expected - so far," he said.

Franklin County motorists spent the day Friday dodging ponds of water in roadways as storm drains dammed up with ice and slush, highway and street department officials said.

The area was drenched with 1.80 inches of rain as of mid-afternoon Friday with more expected through the day, Waynesboro weather observer Todd Toth said.

"It's melting a lot of snow," Toth said. "It's supposed to freeze tonight."

Lloyd Hamberger, borough manager for Waynesboro, Pa., said road crews spent the day clearing paths for the storm drains.

"It's a mess," he said. "They start at one end of the borough and by the time they get through, they have to start over."

Roads were passable in most places but drivers were urged to use caution, officials said.

A spokeswoman at the Waynesboro Fire Department said volunteers were kept busy Friday pumping water out of residents' basements.

Staff writers Richard F. Belisle and Candice Bosely contributed to this story.

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