Feared coastal flooding has yet to materialize

Ocean City officials expect to examine beach Monday

February 08, 2010|By Andrea F. Siegel

Fears of widespread coastal flooding from a combination of high tides and the snowstorm's high winds did not materialize, though Ocean City officials are expected to examine the town's beaches today.

Concerns about flooding along the state's coastline were raised Saturday, as officials worried that high winds from the east would push the already high tide ashore, leading to floods and significant erosion.

In Ocean City, where beach and dune replenishment has been taking place, engineers are expected to check the shoreline for erosion.

"We're optimistic at this point in time, but we have not had time to go out," said Joseph Theobald, director of emergency services for Ocean City.

No flooding was reported, he said.

Still, said Bruce Michael, director of the resource assessment service at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, "I can't imagine that won't have any impact. I would imagine there would be more beach erosion from the storm."

The city of Annapolis prepared for flooding in the usual locations of the City Dock and Eastport, setting out sandbags for businesses and residents to use if needed. But officials said they had no flood reports. The bags remain available, said city spokesman Phill McGowan.

Officials in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, both of which have extensive shorelines, said Sunday that flooding has not been an issue.

Not only are temperatures expected to hover around or below freezing this week, but forecasters are calling for another snowstorm Tuesday. Officials say they are monitoring the weather patterns and potential for floods.

"I would not anticipate any immediate flooding," said Don F. Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, noting that the continued cold this week will lead to a slow melt in coming days.

But, he said, there may be concerns about the salts that homeowners and road crews spread to keep pavement clear. "We will be increasing the salinity of the water this year. That is another concern," Boesch said.

The benefit of gradually melting snow is that the water can seep into the ground. In contrast, a fast melt sends water gushing as runoff that erodes stream banks, sending road salt, eroded soil, debris and animal waste into local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay, he said.

That happened in early 1996. Rain and warm days followed snow, said DNR's Michael. Flotsam, including felled trees, nutrient-laden mud and pollutants cascaded down the Susquehanna River to the bay, causing problems at Conowingo Dam and Havre de Grace along the way, Michael said.

Sediment blocks the light needed for underwater grasses to grow, and nutrients promote algae blooms that deplete the water's oxygen, he said. However, he said, grasses don't start growing until April, and algae starts sprouting in the spring.

"Right now, as long as it's cold for a while, we don't have a big problem," Michael said, adding, "If there's a big warmup and another rain, we would have a big concern."

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