Friday, September 30, 2016

Massive coastal flash flooding in southern Maryland after almost 10-inches of rain: The Canal Woods condominium complex took the brunt of Thursday morning's flooding in Salisbury. Additional tidal flooding is possible into Saturday. Impacts: inundation of water in and near Low-lying coastal areas could lead to road closures and flooding of property.

Floods cause sinkholes, evacuations on Lower Shore
Liz Holland, Jeremy Cox, Deborah Gates and Doug Ferrar, 11:16 a.m. EDT September 30, 2016


The Canal Woods condominium complex took the brunt of Thursday morning's flooding in Salisbury. 
Residents evacuate amid Salisbury flooding.

dditional tidal flooding is possible into Saturday. Impacts: inundation of water in and near Low-lying coastal areas could lead to road closures and flooding of property.

(Photo: Staff photo by Liz Holland)

A line of thunderstorms that pounded the Lower Shore overnight flooded local roads with up to 9 1/2 inches of rain, created washouts and sinkholes on three Salisbury streets and forced the evacuation of the Canal Woods condominium complex.

“This amount of rain was unexpected,” said David Shipley, Wicomico County’s director of emergency services. “There was nothing we could have done.”

County officials were keeping an eye on the Morris Mill dam in Fruitland in case there was a breach, he said. Canal Woods, which sits downstream, was evacuated as a precaution, but the dam appeared to be holding up.

“We were preparing for the worst,” Shipley said.

High waters engulf vehicles, halt traffic in Salisbury
Flood waters rise over tires of vehicles near Priscilla Street on Route 13 in Salisbury on Friday, Sept. 30. Staff photo by Ted Shockley

Canal Woods resident Marie Jones was awakened before dawn by the ringing of her doorbell.

Before she realized what was going on, three firefighters, all turned out in full gear, were standing above her bed. They told her she needed to evacuate. The water was rising outside, and it would only be a matter of time before the flood invaded her first-floor condominium unit.

“It kind of startled me. I was a little shaky from seeing them standing there,” Jones said a few hours later. “They told me they would go out there and wait so I could get dressed, so that’s what I did.”

By the time she boarded a bus bound for a hastily organized Red Cross shelter, the water inside her home was about halfway to her knees.

Jones wasn’t the only person caught off guard Thursday on Delmarva. Overnight storms had been forecast to douse the peninsula with between 1 and 3 inches of rain. By morning, that total was more like 4-8 inches — and more was on the way.

Buildings at Canal Woods in Salisbury were evacuated due to flooding. (Photo: Salisbury Police Department Image)

The epicenter of the chaos seemed to be along Canal Park Drive at the southernmost end of Salisbury. There, a swollen Tony Tank Pond overflowed its banks, pouring water into the first floors of Canal Woods condominium buildings A and G, said city spokesman Chris Demone.

The quiet neighborhood became a scene of drama as firefighters went door to door around 5 a.m., alerting people to the rising danger.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve been alive 86 years,’ said Elnora Griffith, a Canal Woods resident forced to flee the rising waters. “It scared me to death because I’m alone, and I don’t drive anymore.”

City inspectors condemned the two buildings as a precaution and shut off the power. About 200 residents were affected by the evacuation, Demone said.

The vast majority of residents uprooted by the flood found a friend or relative to take them in. But as of noon, three Canal Woods residents were at a shelter organized at Wicomico High School.

Griffith was waiting for her daughter to pick her up from Onley, Virginia. She had a Red Cross blanket wrapped around her legs. She had only enough time to grab her medication and a few spare clothes before she had to leave.

Fred Medley and Marie Jones give information to a Red Cross worker, wearing a red jacket, on Thursday, Sept. 29, after their homes flooded in the Canal Woods neighborhood. (Photo: Staff photo by Jeremy Cox)

Across the table from Griffth sat Jones and her upstairs neighbor, Fred Medley. It was the pair’s second meeting since Jones moved in nine months ago, but they laughed and chatted at the table like old friends.

Humor was one of the few things Jones had salvaged on this miserable day. Like Griffith, she had only time to snag a few necessities, including her own medication. Unlike Griffith, she didn’t have anywhere to go.

The local Red Cross chapter was weighing its options, trying to balance the need with its resources. On Thursday afternoon, an overnight shelter was opened a few blocks down the road at the Wicomico Presbyterian Church.

Jones said she wouldn’t mind staying there even if it didn’t have a television. She doesn’t have one at home anyway, she said with a chuckle.

Salisbury officials also reported there were two small areas of road washout — one on North Park Drive near Village in the Park, the second on Burton Street between Cypress and Lake streets. A small sinkhole also was reported at the intersection of East William Street and Route 13.

Elsewhere in the county, 15 roads had to be closed due to high water. Most of them were what Shipley called “regular flooders.”

“But when they did it this time, it was bad,” he said.

High flooding soaks Crisfield after severe overnight storms

Chesapeake Ave. is completely submerged in Crisfield on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. Dan Harrison photo
Outage, flooding shut down UMES

Thursday classes were canceled at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore due to a widespread power outage during heavy rains overnight that pounded the campus, affecting some 800 on-campus students.

Power was still out Thursday morning, and workers were pumping water from some campus buildings where basements flooded, said William Robinson, UMES spokesman.

There were no known injuries.

A car with three students drove or slid into a large ditch on College Backbone Road in front of University Terrace student housing. Students stood watching the vehicle in amazement Thursday morning.

"I can't believe people were out driving in that weather," said Travis Walker, a student from Baltimore. "Water from the ditch was on the road and you couldn't tell the road from the ditch."

He and other students sought out information from counselors about renters insurance, noting that power was still out.

Robinson said no one was seriously injured in the vehicle mishap and that occupants declined medical attention.

"At one point, you couldn't see the road and the ditch," Robinson said of the area around University Terrace student housing where the car was in the ditch. "Nine inches of rain was reported."

Rains hit Princess Anne at high tide along the Manokin River, "and the confluence of feeder streams and heavy rain caused standing water," Robinson said.

UMES was operating emergency generators, and food service continued to operate Thursday, he said.

By early afternoon, electricity had been restored, except for Kiah Hall, which endured a flooded basement, Robinson said. Kiah is a classroom and faculty office building, and campus offcials were working to identify other buildings where classes could be temporarily held starting Friday.

A portion of Gordy Road flooded near Route 13. 

Somerset, Worcester towns flooded

Crisfield experienced unusually high flooding throughout the city, but it was the worst on some streets in the center of town because it had nowhere to drain, said City Manager Rick Pollitt.

The city opened the parking lot at the former Carvel Hall factory to allow residents to park their cars there on higher ground.

Pollitt said the flooding in the bayside town was nothing unusual, “but a lot of animals in town are lining up by twos,” he said.

Snow Hill Mayor Charlie Dorman drove through town Thursday, surveying flood damage from heavy rainfall that, in his backyard, measured over 9 inches. The deluge overnight Wednesday kept water from following its normal course through street drains to the Pocomoke River that runs through town.

Among areas hardest hit were low-lying sections, including South Drive and Washington and Bay streets, the mayor said.

“The gauge in my backyard said we got 9 ½ inches of rain; my yard looks like a pond,” Dorman said. “All the water in town drains to the river, and when the river is up, water has no place to go.”

Compounding the problem are sections of town “where all farmland drains.”

“Ditches are full,” Dorman said. “That’s the biggest problem I’ve got.”

In Princess Anne, two streets were closed due to flooding Thursday morning. The bridges over the Manokin River on Somerset Avenue and Hytche Boulevard in town were shut down due to high water. The streets were reopened by the afternoon, said Yvette Cross, Somerset County’s director of emergency services.

A rain gauge at UMES measured 9 ½ inches overnight, Cross said.

Pocomoke City Manager Ernie Crofoot reported that conditions were fairly normal.

“We’ve had a couple of issues, but not like last time,” he said. “It’s really a non-event.”

He said the rain was delaying a culvert cleaning project, which would help dissipate any standing water. Digging and some new pipe in places will be needed, but they anticipated getting to this as soon as the rain stops.“We had one serious spot at the end of my street, but that drained off when the rain slowed and it didn’t impact traffic,” Crofoot said. “There was some backup at the fairgrounds, but that’s gone now, too.