Rain not done here yet

Up to 5 inches expected in many areas

some Md. residents are urged to leave

June 28, 2006|By MICHAEL DRESSER AND FRANK D. ROYLANCE | MICHAEL DRESSER AND FRANK D. ROYLANCE,SUN REPORTERS

Torrential rain from a new storm out of the south lashed an already saturated Maryland overnight, as emergency officials braced for what could be a scene of widespread damage and disruption this morning.

Forecasters were warning of an additional 3 to 5 inches of rain last night and today - with downpours of up to 8 inches in especially unlucky locations.

"It's not good news," said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster at the National Hydrometeorological Prediction Center in Camp Springs. Streams already at flood stage "are not going to be helped by additional runoff," he said.

While there were no confirmed deaths yesterday from the rain and flooding, rescue workers were searching for two missing teenage boys after the father of one of them found a bicycle and clothing by a bridge at Little Pipe Creek near the border of Frederick and Carroll counties, state police said.

An apparent tornado touched down near Chaptico in St. Mary's County shortly after 6 p.m., destroying two barns and damaging several homes and an automotive repair shop, said Tim Cameron, the county's director of public safety. Another was sighted near Mechanicsville. No injuries were reported, he said.

Around the state, local officials were urging residents of low-lying areas to move to shelters. The Susquehanna River was expected to crest above major flood levels in Harrisburg, Pa., tomorrow - with potentially devastating consequences for Maryland towns downstream and the Chesapeake Bay.

Meanwhile, state officials said they would meet with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin tallying uninsured damage to determine whether Maryland qualifies for disaster assistance.

The latest culprit in a five-day meteorological mugging of the Mid-Atlantic region is a storm that made landfall yesterday afternoon in the Carolinas. Radar estimates indicated that the storm was dropping 3 to 5 inches of rain as it moved into eastern North Carolina. That intensity was expected to carry across Virginia and Maryland, Oravec said.

"It should be passing the Chesapeake Bay around midnight [last night], then up towards the New York City area by early [this] morning," Oravec said. "It's actually moving pretty quick."

The expected downpours could bring a return of flooding to many of the same places that were soaked by up to a foot of rain delivered by a low-pressure system that had camped over the region starting Friday. The National Weather Service released figures yesterday morning showing that Bel Air had received 12.29 inches of rain over a four-day period - while Columbia, Hyattsville and several locations in Montgomery County exceeded 10 inches.

The latest storm was expected to bring new troubles in the form of storm surges - particularly along the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.

That's due in part to persistent winds from the south and southeast that have been pushing water into the bay and holding it there. The low pressure and recent new moon might also contribute to the high water, Oravec said.

Storm surges during Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003 reached 8 to 10 feet and caused extensive damage to Fells Point, Annapolis, eastern Baltimore County and other areas. But officials weren't expecting anything so serious this morning.

Ed McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said yesterday that officials were expecting a storm surge of about 2 to 3 feet at high tide. Officials in Anne Arundel County issued a coastal flood watch.

The tropical system racing up the bay was also expected to bring stronger winds than the system that brought soaking rains to the region over the weekend. Oravec said the storm's sustained winds might reach 20 mph, with gusts to 40 or 50 mph in thunderstorms. That's not normally enough to topple trees, he said, "but with the amount of water in the soil, it won't take much."

"I would expect more trees down," said Dave Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration.

As heavy rains continued to pound Western Maryland yesterday, forecasters were expecting flooding on the Potomac and Monocacy rivers by late tomorrow. McDonough said the state anticipates that the Potomac will crest about 2 to 3 feet above flood stage at Point of Rocks in Frederick County - a moderate deluge for a town familiar with 8- to 10-foot floods.

Meanwhile, the Susquehanna is expected to reach flood stage at Harrisburg by late today and rise to as much as 8 feet above flood stage there by tomorrow evening, Oravec said.

The National Weather Service was projecting that the river would reach 25.1 feet at Harrisburg - not even counting the effect of last night's rains. That would exceed the level reached in a January 1996 flood, which damaged the Cecil County town of Port Deposit.

Ben Armstrong, spokesman for Exelon Corp., which operates the Conowingo Dam, said that when 14 of its gates are open, water floods Route 222. The town of Port Deposit begins to flood when 22 gates are open. In the 1996 storm, 39 floodgates were opened.

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