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Area reaches saturation point

June 28, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Area waterways were projected to crest today as rains washed out roads, flooded basements and left motorists stranded Tuesday on the third straight day of wet weather.

Firefighters around the county sandbagged homes and pumped water from basements, and Washington County Highway Department personnel placed high-water signs on flooded roads.

"It's not running off, it's not sinking in. The ground is so saturated, there's no place for the water to go," said retired police officer James Cooper, who was answering phones Tuesday night at the Hagerstown Police Department.

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By 10 p.m. Tuesday, almost 8.5 inches of rain had fallen on Hagerstown since Sunday, according to www.i4weather.net, a Web site maintained by weather observer Greg Keefer.

More than half of Hagerstown's measurable precipitation for the year fell during the course of 12 days this month, according to the Web site.

More than 3 inches fell Tuesday, www.i4weather.net indicated.

While the Potomac River was running significantly below flood stage, the National Weather Service forecasted Tuesday night that Conococheague Creek at Fairview would crest at 8 p.m. today at 13.9 feet, more than two feet above the lowest level of "moderate" flooding.

Fred Mirra, a resident of the 13000 block of Cress Pond Road, which runs along the creek, said his road was covered by water, but he had been able to access his residence by Broadfording Road. While the area was "very wet," Mirra said Tuesday evening it was not yet flooded.

"It's just a pain in the neck, but it's nothing crucial," said Mirra, who lives about 150 yards from the creek.

At its projected crest level, the creek would flood much of Wishard Road. The creek has hit an "action stage," if water rises to 8 feet, and a "moderate flooding stage," if the water level crests at 11 feet or higher, according to the National Weather Service.

Fifteen feet is considered a "major flood stage," the service's Web site indicates.

According to Cooper, who serves as a community service officer, the police department's basement flooded during the day. The area, which houses cell blocks and evidence lockers, was sandbagged, and nothing was damaged, Cooper said.

The rains also caused flooding at Washington County Public Schools' Central Office, spokeswoman Carol Mowen said. She said she believed employees were able to move equipment and supplies away from water that ran into the building on Commonwealth Avenue in Hagerstown.

Closed roads



Washington County Highway Department Director Ed Plank said Tuesday evening that mudslides, high water and sinkholes had closed more roads than he could list.

"We've had so many calls in the last six hours that things are just total chaos," he said.

Memorial Boulevard between South Potomac Street and Maryland Avenue in Hagerstown and Md. 77 near the borders of Washington and Frederick counties were among the roads closed, according to information provided by spokespeople for the city and Maryland State Highway Department.

Charles Shank, 80, a farmer who lives along Conococheague Creek on Wishard Road, said he has seen worse. A few years ago, he said, he had to drag his car out of high water with a tractor.

"I should have listened to my wife. I know I should have listened to her a lot of times," Shank said.

The storm, which stalled over the East Coast and dumped record amounts of moisture from Virginia to New York, should taper off today, AccuWeather expert senior meteorologist Dave Dombeck said.

"In less than three days, we've had more than two months worth of normal rainfall," he said.

Drier days will give road crews a chance to assess the damage of the storms, Plank said. Until then, he said, motorists should drive at their own risk.

"People should use their own judgment and not travel across any roadway when they can't see the road. I mean, that's just common sense," Plank said.

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