Heavy rains cause flooding throughout Maryland

Jones Falls Expressway briefly closed during rush hour

March 10, 2011|By Frank D. Roylance, The Baltimore Sun

Flooding closed the Jones Falls Expressway near Penn Station during Thursday evening's rush hour and forced evacuations in north Baltimore, as a steady rain punctuated by heavy showers and isolated thunderstorms soaked the region with more than 2.5 inches of precipitation.

Gov. Martin O'Malley declared a state of emergency as the rain intensified, and the National Weather Service added a flash flood warning for the evening on top of the earlier coastal and flood warnings for the area. Emergency managers across the region waited for an evening high tide that forecasters said could rise 2 feet to 3 feet above normal levels.

The daylong rain appeared to have set a record for the date, breaking the mark established 128 years ago.

The Jones Falls surged out of its banks, flooding streets at Clipper Mill near Union Avenue in Baltimore, and in the Mount Washington area around the Smith Avenue Bridge. Both are frequently scenes of flooding during heavy rains.

Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said several businesses between Kelly and Smith avenues were "preliminarily evacuated" as a precaution to the rising flood waters. He said smaller outlets feed into the Jones Falls, causing the water level to rise and flood the area.

"The businesses are commonly affected with this kind of weather," he said. He was not aware of any homes being evacuated.

Parked cars near the Meadow Mill gym in Hampden were flooded by rising water, and streetlights were out in parts of the city.

In the middle of the evening rush hour, police closed the northbound Jones Falls Expressway from President Street to North Avenue after runoff from the parking garage at Penn Station flooded a portion of the highway. Commuters quickly jammed northbound city streets. The expressway reopened around 6:30 p.m.

Baltimore's Department of Public Works reported the heavy runoff had infiltrated a sanitary sewer at 401 E. Eager St., causing at least 10,000 gallons of untreated sewage to spill.

O'Malley's state of emergency called the Maryland National Guard into service and allowed local jurisdictions to access state resources when needed.

In Harford County, the morning high tide spilled into a city park in Havre de Grace. County road crews barricaded eight local roads in mid-afternoon as nearby streams flooded the travel surfaces. One of the high-water spots was on East Jarrettsville Road, between Routes 1 and 24, in the Forest Hill area.

In Annapolis, authorities said the Thursday morning high tide brought bay waters over the edge of the City Dock, but caused no problems. Sandbags and barricades were pre-positioned, to prepare for high tide at 8:49 p.m. .

Shortly after 9 p.m., director of emergency management, Deputy Chief Kevin J. Simmons, said the City Dock had flooded, as well as parts of Second Street. He said Compromise Street had been shut down because of flooding.

"It's pretty significant," he said, but added the area had not flooded as much as it had during a Sept. 30 storm. He said the water level was already 5 inches higher than normal before the high tide, but the water would begin to recede by 9:30 p.m.

"There's not much you can do to stop Mother Nature," Simmons said.

Elsewhere, the rain soaked the landscape and filled streams and creeks without causing major problems.

BGE's websitehttp://www.bge.com/portal/site/bge/menuitem.42d31413f80c584606370f10d66166a0/ listed more than 2,100 outages by 9:30 p.m., most in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County. Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties reported few weather-related problems.

"What the emergency management people have been concerned about is the coastal areas — Bowleys Quarters and Turner's Station," said Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman Elise Armacost. "They're kinda watching those areas through the evening, concerned about flooding as we approach high tide." The evening high tide just after 11 p.m.

Several roads in the areas were closed due to flooding, including parts of Bowleys Quarters Road and Carroll Island Road, but emergency management officials said water levels were beginning to recede by 11:30 p.m. Across Baltimore County, about 15 roads were closed between 5 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Allegany County saw the brunt of flooding, where several trailer parks were evacuated.

More than 2.5 inches had fallen at BWI-Marshall Airport by 6 p.m., breaking the 1.74-inch record for the date established in 1883. The rainiest March day was March 9, 1881, when 3.51 inches fell in Baltimore.

The center of the storm moved slowly northward toward the Great Lakes, passing just west of Baltimore and Washington. The counter-clockwise spin around the low drew heavy moisture into the region from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

The cold front trailing behind the low was expected to cross the region overnight into Friday, ending the rain and shifting the winds to the west and northwest. The colder air was forecast to turn rain to snow in the western highlands with 3 inches to 5 inches of possible accumulation before it ended.

Baltimore Sun reporters Scott Calvert, Michael Dresser and Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

Maryland weather blog: Frank Roylance on meteorology

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