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Rising Opequon Creek prompts calls for evacuations

October 30, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Jefferson County, W.Va., resident Robert Braun was advised Tuesday to evacuate his home on Joe Miller Road along the swollen Opequon Creek.
Photo by Richard F. Belisle

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Robert Braun was asleep at 1 a.m. Tuesday when he was awakened by someone knocking loudly on his door.

Braun’s house is on Joe Miller Road along the Opequon Creek where it passes under the bridge separating Jefferson and Berkeley counties on W.Va. 51.

“They said they were from Homeland Security and they urgently recommended that I evacuate my house immediately and go to higher ground because the creek was flooding. I told them I was staying; that my house is 60 feet above the creek,” he said.

Braun, 54, said he has lived in Jefferson County for nearly 30 years and has never seen the Opequon as high as it was early Tuesday afternoon. It spread out beyond the bridge into a large lake of muddy brown water.

Kevin DeVaney was a few miles away walking along Strobridge Road watching as the Opequon nudged up to the road.

“This is the first time I’ve seen it this high and I’ve been living here for 12 years,” he said.

“The Opequon is the biggest threat in the county today,” said Barbara Miller, director of Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “There’s major flooding there. We’ve had police and firefighters out encouraging people to evacuate about 200 homes.”

No homes had been flooded by mid-afternoon along the Opequon, Miller said. The creek was expected to crest at 14 feet, four feet above flood stage, Miller said.  

Predictions for major flooding from Jefferson County’s two major rivers, the Potomac and Shenandoah, did not materialize, she said.

The Potomac was predicted to crest at 24.5 feet, high enough to inundate the Lower Town at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Miller said.

A revision by mid-afternoon lowered the prediction at Harpers Ferry to 19.5 feet by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“Forecasting the Potomac has been challenging,” Miller said. “The western mountains were hammered with snow and if temperatures were to go into the 40s there could be a quick melt that would affect the river’s level, she said.

Flood stage on the Shenandoah River is 10 feet at Milleville, W.Va., Miller said. It was predicted to peak at 11 feet, a level that Miller said would not threaten homes. “There might be some nuisance water on some roads,” she said.

There was nearly a full complement of volunteers at work at the Homeland Security and Emergency Management headquarters at 28 Industrial Blvd. in Kearneysvile, W.Va., Tuesday afternoon.

Among them was Sandy Hite, volunteer threat preparedness coordinator, who arranged for the emergency shelter at Jefferson High School. She said about a dozen people came to the shelter Monday night.

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