Rain inundates Shore

Stalled system may dump more through tomorrow


A torrent of rain drenched portions of the Eastern Shore yesterday morning, ripping out roads, small bridges and railroad beds, and forcing evacuations of dozens of residents in southern Caroline and northern Dorchester counties.

Heavy rains also soaked much of Central Maryland, and resumed with another round of storms last night - closing numerous roads in the Baltimore area, and dropping more than 3 inches of rain at the Inner Harbor, the National Weather Service said,

But it was nothing to compare to the middle-Shore counties, where the weather service estimated 9 to 12 inches had fallen. Heavy rain began there about 2 a.m. and continued as heavily as an inch per hour until late morning - with the most sodden areas seeming to lie in a 30-mile-wide swath up into Delaware.

No death or serious injury was reported, but it was a mess - particularly in hard-hit towns such as Federalsburg and Hurlock, where officials set up command posts in volunteer fire stations, barricaded roads and set up detours.

David Yockey, a Dorchester County commissioner who recorded some of the damage on a digital camera, said the storm prompted local officials to declare a state of emergency. County officials said they would ask the governor to declare the region a disaster area, making it eligible for financial aid and other state assistance.

"We've got roads that are out, just completely gone, train tracks with holes punched through the rail beds, people with damaged homes," Yockey said. "We're going to need state help. It's going to take a lot of money and time to put all this right again."

The rainfall was blamed on a frontal system carrying tropical moisture from the Georgia and Florida coasts that stalled across central Virginia, Southern Maryland and Delaware, according to the National Weather Service.

"These storms just stayed in the same area continuously back-building on themselves, and they never dried up," said Larry Brown, a weather service meteorologist.

On Saturday, parts of Harford and northern Baltimore counties also saw heavy rains, with 2 to 3 inches falling in the evening. Several more inches fell in some sections last night, with the Interstate 95 corridor between Baltimore and Washington among the wettest.

Authorities in Harford reported a half-dozen rescues of people from cars caught in high water Saturday, and said one car - apparently abandoned, with its headlights still on - was washed down a creek from a bridge on Plum Tree Road.

"Nobody's been reported missing because of the storm," said Bob Thomas, spokesman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

"The thing that's scary is this doesn't look like it will end," said Andy Woodcock, a forecaster at the weather service's regional office in Sterling, Va. "If the computer models hold, Tuesday could be the worst. We could get 3 to 5 more inches."

Flood watches and warnings remained in effect last night across most of Maryland amid the continuing storms.

Parts of Seaford, Del., resembled a sea after western Sussex County received an estimated 10 inches of rain. Hundreds of people were evacuated from mobile home parks and a nursing home, and firefighters used boats to rescue stranded people at the local Wal-Mart.

In Hurlock, population 1,900, as many as a dozen people were rescued from cars after trying to drive through flooded intersections," said Jason Trego, a volunteer fire official in charge of the town's command post.

Others refused to leave their homes, despite high water. Firefighters, police, and public works crews helped anyone who chose to leave as utility crews turned off electricity to about 150 homes that were deemed hazardous, Trego said.

"We have at least a dozen roads completely washed out in and around Hurlock," Trego said. "This is not the sort of thing we're used to dealing with in this area."

Henry Teets, a State Highway Administration supervisor from Denton, the Caroline County seat, said his office had dispatched 17 men and 10 large dump trucks to block off flooded roads in Federalsburg, which has about 2,700 residents.

"It seems to get worse as you go toward Hurlock," Teets said. "We've seen lots of roads and bridges out."

Donald Nagel, Federalsburg's police chief, said more than three dozen people had been evacuated from their homes as Marshyhope Creek began to rise. Some houses, he said, showed structural damage.

"In Caroline County, I'd say we have around 75 people - firefighters, police, public works people - involved," Nagel said. "Basically, we're trying to keep the whole town shut down until some of this water starts to go away. We have detours set up, but we still have a lot of people who want to go take a look."

By midday, a planned pancake breakfast fundraiser at the Federalsburg fire hall had been extended by hours to feed residents and rescuers.

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