Disaster agency sets up office as Port Deposit watches rain Weary residents wonder about flood warnings

January 28, 1996|By Robert Hilson and Sherrie Ruhl | Robert Hilson and Sherrie Ruhl,SUN STAFF

Perry Poist glanced at the sky, then at the front of his home. A broad brown line about waist-high stretched across the vinyl siding and his front door -- a painful reminder of last weekend's flooding.

"That's the watermark," he said yesterday. "Everything on this floor is ruined. Everything. You can imagine how everything in the basement is."

Mr. Poist and his neighbors along Main Street in Port Deposit wearily pulled ruined appliances and furniture from their homes -- and prayed for no more flooding as yesterday's rain fell hard.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency opened an office on Main Street to help residents who sought assistance to recover from the flooding. Only a handful of residents came to the office yesterday, said Mary Margaret Walker, a FEMA official.

"We're not quite sure why there aren't more people here," Ms. Walker said, adding that perhaps residents instead called the agency to apply for assistance. The number is 1-800-462-9029.

Residents may apply for loans for various purposes, such as housing, unemployment, social services and insurance, Ms. Walker said. After they apply, an inspector will assess damage.

Residents of the tiny town on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Cecil County said they want more notice when a large number of floodgates are to be opened at nearby Conowingo Dam, possibly causing flooding.

"You think a little warning is too much to ask, do you?" said Charles Lewis, who lost three rooms of furniture to the floods.

Port Deposit officials want the Conowingo Dam to install sirens and lights to deliver a warning the next time flooding is imminent.

Mayor Erma M. Keetley said a high-water watch was in effect yesterday for the town.

She and other officials have complained that the dam's operator, PECO Energy Co., did not call Port Deposit officials to warn that flooding was imminent Jan. 20.

The company said it notified authorities according to an emergency plan that was developed in the summer and approved by town and county officials.

The water began rising in Port Deposit Jan. 20 as the dam's operators opened floodgates to relieve pressure from the swollen Susquehanna. PECO spokesman Michael Wood said Friday that at the peak, 42 of the dam's 52 floodgates were open.

Yesterday, the number of open floodgates was down to seven. Mr. Wood said that with 1 to 1.5 inches of rain expected over the weekend, the dam might have to open as many as a dozen more, which could cause more flooding in Port Deposit.

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