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Park prepares for high water

June 29, 2006

Though flooding of low-lying Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in Jefferson County, W.Va., appeared less likely Wednesday, Park spokesperson Marsha Wassel said rangers removed benches and signage in case either the Potomac or Shenandoah rivers crested today at or above flood stage.

"We try to stay a few feet above what the prediction is so we don't get behind the eight ball," Wassel said.

National Weather Service officials Wednesday projected the Potomac to crest 3 feet below Harpers Ferry's flood stage of 18 feet. Less than a mile upstream at Millville, W.Va., the Shenandoah River was expected to crest at 11 feet, with more than 2 feet to spare.

Harpers Ferry Mayor James A. Addy said Tuesday night he was prepared to close the streets to access the Lower Town district and the park in advance of anticipated flooding.

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"I think we're probably OK ... famous last words," Addy said.

In Berkeley County, Opequon Creek overflowed its banks Wednesday as officials predicted, exceeding the flood stage by more than 2 feet by 4 p.m., National Weather Service officials said.

Signs warning motorists of the creek's high water on Golf Course Road near the Vanmetre Ford Bridge failed to deter them, Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department Chief Martin Roberts said.

The department helped rescue a Berkeley County woman and her infant who traveled through the water in a Chevrolet Lumina about 4:30 p.m., causing the vehicle's engine to stop while on the bridge, Roberts said. No one was injured, but the road was closed after the incident. The woman told her rescuers that she was following another eastbound vehicle through the water.

"She said she didn't see the high water sign," Roberts said. The fire chief indicated the department received no calls for help along Douglas Grove Road, which also was inundated by the flooding creek.

Six inches of rain fell in Morgan County, W.Va., from Sunday to Wednesday, said Jim Gilhart of Berkeley Springs radio station WDHC. A call came into the station Wednesday morning from a resident in the Cacapon Mountain area that 6 inches of rain was recorded there, Gilhart said.

Cacapon Resort State Park also recorded "about 6 inches of rain" from Sunday to Wednesday, said Brad Reed, West Virginia Parks and Recreation assistant superintendent there.

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