Conowingo floodgates opened as river rises

January 11, 1998|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Heavy snowfalls in New York State, followed by this week's warm weather and rain, have sharply increased the flow of the Susquehanna River, prompting officials at Conowingo Dam to open floodgates to release the added volume of water.

A portion of Route 222, between Port Deposit and the dam, was closed Friday as a precaution and will remain closed until the water subsides, but there is no threat to homes or businesses in the area, officials said.

"There's a pretty tremendous force of water coming down the river," said Michael Wood, spokesman for PECO Energy Co., which owns the dam.

The river crested at Conowingo at 50 feet 2 inches at 9: 30 a.m. yesterday. The river had been running at about 36 feet. National Weather Service hydrologists in New Jersey also said the river was running about 10 times above the normal flow.

According to the weather service, the Susquehanna reaches as high as yesterday's crest about once every three to five years.

Wood said 17 of the dam's 52 "crest gates" were open by yesterday morning, and he expected that more would be opened.

When 12 dam gates are opened, state highway officials routinely close a low-lying stretch of Route 222, which might be under 1 or 2 feet of water, said Sgt. John Blades of the Maryland State Police at North East.

"But it's not enough [water] to affect Port Deposit or Perryville," towns below the dam, he added.

The river was flowing freely without the ice jams of 1996 that resulted in serious flooding in riverside communities, Wood said.

Pub Date: 1/11/98

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