Flash flood watch in effect in Washington County, W.Va. Panhandle

C&O Canal visitors center in Williamsport is open

September 08, 2011|By CALEB CALHOUN and KATE S. ALEXANDER | and
  • Had the flood projections on Tuesday from the National Weather Service been accurate, the aqueduct in Williamsport over the Conococheague Creek would have likely been partially under water, according to West District Park Ranger Curt Gaul.
By Caleb Calhoun/Mobile Journalist

TRI-STATE — A flash flood watch is in effect until late Thursday night in Washington County and the Eastern Panhandle counties of Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson in West Virginia, the National Weather Service announced Thursday morning as an additional inch or more of rain was expected Thursday.

Franklin County, Pa., was under a flood watch through 8 p.m., the weather service said. A flood watch for Fulton County, Pa., was canceled.

The Potomac River is no longer expected to overflow its banks in the Tri-State area, despite projections Tuesday that it would rise to major flood stages in some areas of Washington County.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday morning lowered its projections for the river to well below flood stage and continued lowering it throughout the day at some points along the river.

However, some minor flooding was still possible at area creeks, forecasters said.

At 6:15 a.m. Thursday, Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg was at 3.41 feet, well below flood stage of 8 feet, according to the weather service. Conococheague Creek at Fairview was at 8.06 feet at 7 a.m. Thursday. Flood stage there is 10 feet.

Weather service meteorologist Brandon Peloquin said initial forecasts over-predicted the amount of rain that would fall in the Tri-State region. Forecasters originally predicted that 3 to 5 inches would fall between Tuesday and Wednesday, he said.

But by Wednesday evening, weather service meteorologist Heather Sheffield said the area had seen only about 0.66 inches of rain Wednesday.

Hagerstown weather watcher Greg Keefer’s site reported that 0.83 inches of rain had fallen in Hagerstown on Wednesday and none on Thursday, bringing the total to 3.10 inches since Monday.

Tuesday’s higher forecasts were based on the amount of rain that was expected to fall in the area this week, weather service meteorologist Stephen Konarik said Wednesday morning.

“All of the projections were based on rain anticipation,” he said. “They changed because of where the rain is expected to fall.”

Now, most of the rain is expected to fall east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Konarik said.

“The heaviest rain band is downstream” of Washington County, Konarik said. “The Washington, D.C., area will be affected more than Washington County.”

But Konarik said the projections for the Potomac River could change again as the week goes on.

Some rainfall is expected to continue throughout the region as the remnants of what is now Tropical Depression Lee passes through and interacts with a warm front.

Sheffield said the warm front has concentrated the heavy rains to the east of the Washington County along the Chesapeake Bay.

However, the system is not going anywhere soon, she said. It should hang around until Sunday, dumping more rain on the Hagerstown area, but not enough to cause “headline” incidents, she said.

Although more then 3 inches of rain has fallen in the Hagerstown area since Monday, the Washington County Highway Department had received no reports of roads closed by water in the county, a spokesman said.

Should motorists encounter water-covered roadway over the next few days, Peloquin said they should use caution.

“The motto is ‘Turn around; don’t drown,’” he said. “Don’t try to drive over any water on the roads.”

A flood warning that was in effect for the Conococheague Creek at Fairview was lifted Wednesday as was a flash flood watch for Antietam Creek, Sheffield said.

“Some of the smaller streams could come out of their banks,” Peloquin said Wednesday morning. “We can’t let our guard down.”

A flood watch for the Potomac River was also lifted Wednesday, Sheffield said.

Readings for the Potomac River in the area were: 3 feet in Williamsport at 9 a.m. Wednesay; 12.21 feet in Hancock at 5:15 a.m. Thursday; and 7.73 feet in Harpers Ferry at 2 a.m. Thursday.

On Thursday morning, the National Park Service announced that it had held back implemeting flood prevention plans for the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park that were scheduled to take effect Wednesday.

The visitors center at Williamsport, as well as those inCumberland, Great Falls and Georgetown, were open Thursday, the park service said in a news release.

Campgrounds and boat ramps in the park were open, but were wet and muddy, the release said.

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