A state of emergency was declared Thursday afternoon in Harford County, mandatory evacuations were ordered and schools were closed as communities along the churning Susquehanna River braced for historic flooding in the wake of Tropical Storm Lee.
The week's torrential downpours already have waters rising at a rapid rate and weather reports for Saturday promise even more flooding.
Port Deposit on the Cecil County shore of the river was placed under a mandatory evacuation Thursday, while on the Harford shore, some 1,500 Havre de Grace residents closest to the water were likewise advised to leave their homes and find higher ground.
Havre de Grace residents living closest to the river began receiving telephone messages through Harford's Connect Cty system Thursday evening asking them to evacuate.
County Emergency Operations Manager Rick Ayers said Thursday evening the county was being told the worst of the Susquehanna flooding might come sooner than expected.
He also said that all 50 crest gates at Conowingo Dam could open as soon as Friday morning.
"The time they're telling us 'now' is 11 a.m. tomorrow [Friday] morning," he said.
The peak of flooding is expected to be Saturday morning, Ayers said.
"We're also concerned about high tides in Havre de Grace because that will mean even more flooding," he said. Tidal flow into the lower Susquehanna from the Chesapeake Bay reaches several miles above Havre de Grace.
Ayers said several homes by the river along Lapidum Road north of Havre de Grace were also being evacuated.
A public shelter has been designated at Aberdeen High School, he said.
Ayers said he expects a maximum of about 200 people to actually go to the high school.
"We think the majority of those people would probably go somewhere else," he said of the evacuees.
Some stay behind
In Port Deposit, the water was quickly rising on Main Street late Thursday afternoon, but some residents were prepared to stand their ground, government orders to contrary.
Gayle Wysock, owner of CM Tugs on Main Street, said Thursday she planned to stay, despite the mandatory evacuation. Wysock has owned CM Tugs since 2003, she said, but has lived on Main Street for the past year.
The water has never reached the restaurant, she added.
"The evacuations have happened a couple of times, but it's never gotten to the restaurant," she said, "even with Agnes," the 1972 storm that caused the worst flooding in history along the lower Susquehanna.
For Rodney Reamer, who lives in Tome's Landing, the water has already reached chest level in his garage, but he, too, is staying. Wednesday night, he said, several of the garages in Tome's Landing were broken in to, so he is staying behind.
"I'm not going anywhere," Reamer said, adding he would probably hang out at CM Tugs.