Flood damage mounts in area as water has 'no place' to go

June 28, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

Several Washington County roads along the Conococheague and Antietam creeks were flooded this morning and patches of roads throughout the county were in high water, but an estimate on the damage the heavy rain brought will not be determined until the water washes away, Ed Plank, director of the county highway department said.

There was a "very long list" of roads out of commission this morning, Plank said. The county's engineering department sent out eight crews to assess the damage to structures and bridges.

Many trees along creek beds were found uprooted, he said.

"This is one of the worst ones (floods) we've had in a good while," Plank said.

He said the county's Emergency Operations Center was in effect overnight and sent out emergency teams to address problems from the flooding.

According to local weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site, at, .01 inch of rain fell today in Hagerstown. The total amount of rain Hagerstown received from the storm since Sunday was 8.57 inches, according to the Web site.


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

More than 3 inches fell Tuesday, according to the Web site.

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

"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.

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.

Tapering off

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.

Staff Writer Pepper Ballard contributed to this story.

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