Flooding closes roads, 1 town Monocacy River bridge submerged and impassable

Fish in the front yard

An estimated 5 feet of water reported on part of Route 140

June 20, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare and Mike Farabaugh | Mary Gail Hare and Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Taneytown firefighters spent three hours early yesterday, working like cowboys to rescue 11 horses from a farm along the Monocacy River at Route 140.

"The horses were up to their necks in water," said firefighter Kevin Coons. "We had to swim to them with ropes and pull them to higher ground."

Volunteers firefighters also helped rescue the farm owners, who declined to be identified.

"The family was pretty cold and shaken up, but they weren't going to leave their livestock," said Wayne Jones, a State Highway Administration employee. "Once the animals were safe, the people left."

Rising water along the Monocacy River, which divides Carroll and Frederick counties, forced state and county officials to close the town of Detour and more than a dozen roads and highways. Officials said heavy rain in southern Pennsylvania -- more than 11 inches reportedly fell in Gettysburg -- was draining into the Monocacy and surging south.

Among Carroll County roads closed by flooding were Sams Creek, Baumgardner, Bullfrog, Mummaford, Baptist, Keysville and Sixes Bridge roads, state police said. All are south of Route 140 and west of Taneytown.

On the Frederick side of the river, Jean Rinehart said when the river floods, it always hits the Carroll side first. At 5 a.m., the bridge over the Monocacy was underwater and impassable. Rinehart woke her neighbors, warning them to move their cars. For several, it was too late, as the flooding swamped driveways.

State highway officials closed Route 140 from Taneytown west to Emmitsburg. Road crews erected barriers and prevented traffic from using any road that crossed the raging river.

By 10 a.m., road signs at the bridge were nearly underwater. Steve Danner and his 12-year-old son, who live nearby, estimated at least 5 feet of water was on the highway.

"Five feet and moving fast; this is serious water," Danner said. "There is no way any vehicle can get through."

On Baptist Road, about three miles north of the highway, the Brown family was determined to stay in their two-story home at the river's edge. The first floor was flooded, but the three adults stayed dry on the second floor and planned to wait out the storms.

Dorothy Brown said the flooding was the worst she had seen in 28 years in her "sturdy old house. We are used to flooding and I don't want to leave my house."

The Browns use the ground floor for storage. About 4 a.m., water rushed in, powerful enough to topple their freezer. "The thing is just floating," Brown said.

A few fish were jumping in her front yard where she had planted a vegetable garden.

The county had just finished repairs to a two-lane bridge on Baptist Road. The construction trailer was overturned in the water, and several large trees floated slowly downstream.

"The water is definitely as deep as Hurricane Agnes, but it is not running as hard," said Mark Sentz, a lifelong resident of Baptist Road. "We could soon be an island here."

Up the road, Elizabeth Holtschneider was walking her dog. She had no choice: The dog run in her yard was under water.

Many compared the flooding from yesterday's storm to that from Hurricane Agnes in 1972. If the river crests today at 27 feet, as predicted, the destruction could be worse.

"That is one big wall of water and it's heading our way; all the streams from Pennsylvania are coming here," said Barbara Kolb of Detour, a town that has seen more than its share of floods.

Five months to the day after a winter flood, which severely damaged many homes in the town, Detour residents were preparing for the worst. Many carried furniture to the second floor. Others filled trailers and prepared to leave. Throughout the town, the question was the same.

"You got water yet?"

Tara Burrier, 14, carried three kittens in a basket and held her dog on a leash, as she her family prepared to leave their home near the bridge. "I am used to it," she said. "This is my second flood."

Michael Smith said the creek appeared to be moving too slowly, a sure sign that it was backing up.

"If Pipe Creek can't dump into the Monocacy, the river will fill up this valley," said Smith, whose home suffered more than $6,000 damage in January when rain and melting snow swamped the town.

"It is like putting a stopper in a sink, where the drain is clogged, and turning on the faucet."

As a junkyard dealer hauled another old car down Route 77, ` `TC resident shouted, "You should be hauling cars out!"

In January, the water pulled many rusting cars into Big Pipe Creek and closed the bridge at the south end of Detour. Oil and fuel polluted the stream, and residents feared contamination to their wells. "We had toxic waste going from the cars into the ground," said Bob Hachten.

Just before noon, Max Bair, chief of staff to the County Commissioners, arrived with more bad news for Detour.

"It doesn't look good," he said. "The river is expected to crest at 27 feet above flood stage. The disaster assistance plan is in effect. All we can do is watch."

Bob Matthews sat pensively on his front porch. He worried that the town's only store, the livelihood for Tara Burrier's family, would be wiped out. He worried that improvements made to his home would be for nothing.

"We knew when we bought that house what could happen," he said. "We have to just set here and wait. We can't control the weather. I am praying that we luck out."

Pub Date: 6/20/96

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