County spared major flooding

In wake of Ivan, residents braced for torrent that didnâEUR(TM)t come

In wake of Ivan, residents braced for torrent that didnâEUR(TM)t come

September 20, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

TRI-STATE - Though the Tri-State area was pounded by rain and, in some places, tornadoes associated with the remnants of Hurricane Ivan and a separate cold front during the weekend, flooding that was predicted for Sunday in areas along the Potomac River did not fully materialize, town officials and a meteorologist said.

Officials and residents in Washington County towns including Hancock, Clear Spring and Williamsport said moderate floods predicted by many area weather experts never made it their way.

"We were looking for it, but we were lucky we didn't get anything that bad," said Williamsport Mayor John Slayman.

A Washington County 911 Center dispatcher said only a few complaints of brief, minor flooding along roads close to the river in those towns were reported.


National Weather Service Meteorologist Steve Rogowski said flooding was avoided because areas closest to the Potomac River and feeder streams were not the areas hit hardest by Friday's thunderstorms.

"Friday, most of the rain came from thunderstorms instead of a large shield of rain," Rogowski said. "Thunderstorms are more localized. You'll have heavier rain, but for a short time."

However, Rogowski said that smaller creeks and streams "are often the first that are impacted and the most substantially impacted." He said the weather service does not track activity of the smaller streams in most cases.

Rogowski said the following were the 24-hour rain totals from Friday, when the vast majority of the rain fell:

�· McConnellsburg, Pa.: 6.3 inches

�· Shepherdstown, W.Va.: 2 inches

�· Martinsburg, W.Va.: 1.75 inches

�· Williamsport: 1.9 inches

Rogowski said totals for Hagerstown and Hancock were not available Sunday.

According to weather observer Greg Keefer's I4 Weather Web site, Hagerstown received 3.71 inches of rain between Friday and Saturday.

Rogowski said crests along the Potomac River did not measure up to what forecasters believed was possible before the weekend's stormy conditions.

On Thursday, weather service forecasters said it was possible that several areas could experience substantial crests, including Shepherdstown, 22 feet; Hancock, 30 feet; and Paw Paw, W.Va., up to 38 feet.

Rogowski said the Potomac peaked at Shepherdstown Saturday night at 17.9 feet, just less then 3 feet more than its flood stage. There, the river was above its flood stage for nearly 24 hours, Rogowski said.

Rogowski said the weather service did not receive reports of significant damage to buildings or obstructions to roads in the town as a result.

He said Hancock, which has a flood stage of 30 feet, and Paw Paw, with a flood stage of 25 feet, each fell more than 10 feet short of flooding conditions. Rogowski said Williamsport crested at 18.3 feet, about 5 feet less than its flood stage.

Still, some low-lying areas of Hancock did experience some flooding.

Hancock resident Fran Shives, chairman of the town's Canal Apple Festival that was scheduled for the weekend, said one small bridge in Hancock was briefly "completely underwater" over the weekend.

"When I went back later, the road was washed out," he said.

Shives said a stream that cuts through Widmyer Park also overflowed onto surrounding park roads. Still, Shives said the park was accessible, and that the reasons for the cancellation of the festival's Saturday and Sunday events were the saturated grounds and electrical problems.

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