Earlier Thursday afternoon, the water hadn't quite reached the street in front of Shannon Salyer's house, but within an hour, it quickly rose.
Salyer, a Port Deposit resident for the past four years, hadn't originally planned to evacuate, but changed her mind when the expected flooding increased.
"I have to [evacuate]," she said. "I have four kids. We can't stay."
She and her husband plan to stay in a hotel, she added, and have the children spend the night with relatives and friends close by.
Russell Valek, who has been a resident for nine years, and his brother, Rob Slover, were all packed up and ready to leave Thursday morning. Their home, Valek said, was already starting to flood. With a poncho draped over his backpack to protect it from rain, the two were ready to head to a friend who lives on the hill.
Record flow at dam possible
Exelon had announced at 2 p.m. Thursday that it expected to open all 50 available floodgates at Conowingo Dam by Saturday.
"Last time we opened all the gates was during Hurricane Agnes [in 1972]," Exelon spokesman Bob Judge said Thursday afternoon.
Agnes caused the largest volume of water flow through the dam in its 83-year history, and the river reached its highest level since records had been kept in the late 1700s.
The dam had 34 gates opened by Thursday afternoon, which is generally enough to cause flooding in Port Deposit.
Water rises in Havre de Grace
Havre de Grace city spokesman John Van Gilder said at about 2:30 p.m. that residents closer to the river were already being encouraged to leave.
"We are encouraging anyone who lives in a flood-prone area, we are kind of recommending that they self-evacuate," he said, emphasizing that the evacuation is still voluntary.
Officials are making the recommendation "knowing that the [water] levels are going to be of a historic proportion," Van Gilder said.
In declaring a state of emergency in the county, Harford County Executive David Craig, a Havre de Grace resident, said the county was requesting that city residents living within a few blocks of the river evacuate.
"There is a need to take steps to prepare for potential destruction and the possibility of evacuation due to flooding and to minimize the threat to public safety and the lives of Harford County citizens and for the facilitation of the deployment of requisite resources," Craig said in an announcement posted on the county's website.
Harford was placed under a state of emergency on Aug. 26 prior to Hurricane Irene, and that declaration was extended by the county council earlier this week, at Craig's request, because of lingering effects from the earlier storm.
Nursing home evacuated
About 165 patients at the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center on the Havre de Grace waterfront were evacuated Thursday afternoon out of concern about the rising Susquehanna River.
According to Citizens Care Administrator Peter Panos, Harford County Emergency Operations Center is handling the transfer of patients to other nearby nursing homes with available beds. Some people could be temporarily moved to a home outside of Harford County.