100 forced to leave homes in Cecil Port Deposit houses swamped by water

Western Md. also hit

January 21, 1996|By David Folkenflik and Eric Siegel | David Folkenflik and Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Consella A. Lee and Joe Mathews contributed to this article.

Officials evacuated nearly 100 residents of the Cecil County town of Port Deposit on the east bank of the Susquehanna River yesterday, as floodwaters 4 to 5 feet deep threatened many houses on Main Street.

In the western part of the state, water overflowed the Potomac River, which defines much of the Maryland-Virginia border. Flooding left a trail of damaged houses there, and officials in Washington and its suburbs prepared for the Potomac to crest )) there late this morning.

A truck driver from Addison, Pa., was killed in an accident yesterday morning on an icy patch of Interstate 68 near Cumberland.

State and Harford County officials said they were prepared to move residents out of Havre de Grave today, although they were uncertain last night whether that would become necessary. The Susquehanna, which separates Harford and Cecil counties, also caused major flooding and evacuations in Pennsylvania yesterday.

Ice raised the river and forced officials at the Pennsylvania utility that runs the Conowingo Dam to open 40 of its 50 gates to release additional water. That, in turn, increased the flooding in Port Deposit, which received the brunt of the damage.

"I was going to pull my oil burner to keep the water from getting in it, but it was too late," said Town Council member Harvey Cunningham, who lives in a 150-year-old duplex on North Main Street. "The only thing I could do was flip the emergency switch, get the dog and get out."

Emergency personnel gently led his 101-year-old neighbor from her apartment to safety. "In '72 it was worse than this," said Mr. Cunningham, 50, also an assistant fire chief at the nearby Veterans Administration hospital. "My family has been in this town for 150 years. My grandfather and grandmother spent their honeymoon in the attic [of his duplex], which they rented from somebody else."

Officials expressed cautious optimism that conditions would not degenerate there and cause more serious damage, like that sustained by homes along waterways -- mostly along the Potomac or its tributaries -- in Western Maryland.

"There is a lot of ice at the safe harbor, which is the dam above us," said Port Deposit Mayor Erma Keetley. "We feel that we're in a much better position than we were earlier on."

Analysts at the National Weather Service said Susquehanna waters were expected to crest at Port Deposit this evening, but they were not sure how high. In the western part of the state, the Potomac at Point of Rocks in Frederick County was expected to crest early this morning at 36 feet, well above the minimum flood level of 16 feet.

Disaster officials expressed worry about Point of Rocks, a small town where U.S. 15 crosses the Potomac. Despite the river's width there, the Potomac is relatively shallow, which could add to the threat of flooding. In Point of Rocks, water rose above the second floor of several homes. A few dozen homes have been evacuated.

"There's been enough advance notice that we're OK," said Rob Wheeler, a volunteer at the Red Cross shelter in the town. "Most people packed up yesterday."

In Washington, the Potomac was expected to crest today at 12 feet at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue, 5 feet above minimum flood level, forecasters said. Police in Montgomery County closed 12 roads yesterday for flooding.

As waters moved east, they trapped an 86-year-old woman from Arlington, Va. At about 2:30 p.m. yesterday, she was driving west on a rural stretch of White's Ferry Road near Poolesville in Montgomery County when rapidly rising water brought her car to a stop.

Rescue and fire units were alerted, burst into the car and pulled her to safety. A police spokesman said she was taken by helicopter to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where she was listed in fair condition. Police did not release her name.

In the Baltimore metropolitan area, dozens of flood-closed roads were reopened yesterday. In Baltimore County, almost all of 48 roads that had been closed were reopened to traffic, officials said. Two exceptions were Notchcliff Road between Glen Arm and Harford roads and Cromwell Bridge Road at Cub Hill Road, said county police liaison Mike O'Conner.

"That was impassable," Mr. O'Conner said.

About 26,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers lost power Friday, but by 5 p.m. that day, gusting winds had more than doubled the number to 57,230 customers throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area, said Nancy Caplan, BGE spokeswoman.

Ms. Caplan said BGE crews had restored power to most customers by midnight Friday.

In Howard County, 24 roads closed Friday, including the busy stretch of U.S. 29 near Columbia Town Center, were open yesterday.

In Anne Arundel County, three roads in low-lying areas that were closed Friday remained closed yesterday.

In Harford County, 15 roads closed throughout the county Friday because of high water remained closed.

In Carroll County, all but six of 60 roads that were closed reopened, said Debra Burk, an emergency supervisor for the Carroll County Fire Department.

Most of the roads still closed were around the town of Detour near the border with Frederick County, where fire and state environment officials late yesterday afternoon were responding to an oil spill at an automobile salvage yard, she said. Workers were trying to contain the spill and keep it from running into nearby Pipe Creek.

Detour resident Becky Carmack said she had flooding in her basement. "Our fuel tank snapped off and was bobbing up and hitting the ceiling," she said.

Still, she said, "We were one of the lucky ones. Some of our neighbors had it worse."

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