Rains Flood Maryland Roads, Strand Drivers

By ALEX DOMINGUEZ | September 9, 2011

Firefighters were among those who had to be rescued as storms flooded roads Wednesday, trapping cars in rushing water and filling basements in a region still cleaning up from Hurricane Irene less than two weeks ago.

A swift water rescue boat carrying two firefighters capsized in the Patapsco River near Catonsville as they responded to rescue calls near the Howard County line, Baltimore County spokeswoman Elise Armacost said. Four firefighters had to bail out of another boat that got stuck, but all six were eventually accounted for.

Maryland emergency management officials, meanwhile, urged state residents to exercise caution when traveling, warning that highway crews, law enforcement agencies and others may be on the roads dealing with downed trees, power lines, road closures and other events.

In Ellicott City, shops, restaurants and apartments along historic Main Street were hit hard and more rain was expected, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said.

“Up and down Main Street, virtually every building’s got water in it. I was talking to a shop owner who said all of her merchandise was underwater, and those are the kinds of stories we’re hearing,” Ulman said.

In Baltimore County, fire and rescue crews were extremely busy on the county’s west side. Armacost said crews responded to numerous swift water rescue calls involving stranded cars. No injuries were reported.

Baltimore Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said some basements were flooded in the Cherry Hill neighborhood, but water was receding by late afternoon and no evacuations were expected. The fire spokesman said water from the Jones Falls was also receding from roads in the Mount Washington neighborhood.

“Hopefully things continue to improve,” Cartwright said.

Meanwhile, a 500-ton crane fell at the National Cathedral in Washington during a thunderstorm, damaging two buildings and several vehicles. No injuries were reported.

Nancee Lyons, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works, said the agency will be handing out five sandbags to each Washington household for people who show a district identification. The distribution will be held from 6 p.m. to midnight Wednesday at RFK Stadium Lot 7. Lyons said the distribution is meant to provide assistance, but they can only provide sandbags until the agency runs out.

Flash flood watches and warnings covered all of central and southern Maryland and northern Delaware on Wednesday. The National Weather Service said 3 to 5 inches of rain had fallen over the Baltimore-Washington area, causing streams to overflow and closing numerous roads. Road flooding was also reported in northern Delaware.

And rain was expected to continue over the next several days.

“I do think we’ll have more showers tomorrow and tomorrow evening. I don’t think it will be quite as widespread as we saw this afternoon but there’s still going to be locally heavy rains,” said Brian Lasorsa, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The weather service said that minor flooding was expected along the Potomac River from Point off Rocks in Frederick County to Little Falls near the border between Maryland and the District of Columbia. The highest water is expected Thursday night through Friday afternoon as the crest moves downstream. The weather service also predicted minor to moderate flooding on Potomac River tributaries including Antietam Creek, Seneca Creek and the Monocacy River.

Maryland Natural Resources Police also issued an advisory saying boating and other recreational uses of the upper Potomac River and its creeks and streams should be avoided. The advisory issued Wednesday runs through Friday, when Natural Resources Police said it would be updated if necessary. Natural Resources Police said recent rains have made river levels hazardous in the main stem of the upper Potomac from Cumberland to Little Falls.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources said the Avalon area of Patapsco Valley State Park in Elkridge was experiencing significant flooding along both the Baltimore County and Howard County sides of the river near U.S. Route 1. Due to flooding, the public was being asked to stay away from the area which was closed until further notice.

(David Dishneau in Baltimore, Sarah Brumfield in Catonsville, Md., and Brett Zongker in Washington contributed to this report.)

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