Victim of Harford flooding identified; search continues for woman swept away

The body of 67-year-old Daniel Samis of Abingdon was recovered Saturday in Harford County as officials worked to clean up more than $2 million in estimated damage from raging waters that displaced families, washed away bridges and peeled asphalt from roadways.

Search efforts were suspended Sunday for a woman who fell into rushing waters after stopping to help the stranded man because divers experienced difficulties in a quarry.

Police have identified the woman as Melissa Anne Lehew, 34.

Maryland State Police said Daniel Samis was killed when the sedan he was driving was swept away Friday evening near Calvary Road and James Run in Churchville.

County Executive Barry Glassman declared a state of emergency Saturday and said he would seek financial aid from the federal government to help pay for the recovery.

“It does scare you how quick the water can come up and how much power it has,” said Glassman, who saw a creek by his Darlington home rise some 30 feet in two hours. “It went from a cloudy afternoon to a dangerous storm.”

More than two dozen swiftwater rescues were reported from Darlington to Abingdon and elsewhere in Harford as 4 to 6 inches of rain drenched the county, said Rich Gardiner, a spokesman for the Harford County Fire and EMS Association. He said the Glen Cove Marina in Darlington was “a mess,” with rising waters carrying boats away from the dock.

Flood damage kept portions of eight roads closed Saturday, including Snake Lane, Graftons Lane, Trappe Road and Glen Cove Road, according to authorities. At its peak, about 20 roads were closed because of bridge and surface damage, downed trees and wires, washed-out culverts and standing water.

“On some of the rural roads, the water was so swift it stripped the asphalt,” Glassman said.

Gov. Larry Hogan expressed his condolences Saturday on Twitter, saying he was praying for those who went missing after the heavy rain and flooding.

“The state continues to offer any support necessary,” the governor wrote.

The county Department of Emergency Services was assisting about 10 displaced families, including four who live off MacPhail Road near Bel Air. A photo Glassman shared on his Twitter account showed 20 to 30 feet of the road, including water lines and utilities, wiped away.

Police said at about 6 p.m. Friday, Samis was in a sedan when the car got stuck on a bridge over Broad Run in rushing water that rose up to its roof. Witnesses told police a truck with a woman and a man pulled up near Samis’ car and tried to help him using a rope. The man was able to help the woman when she fell a first time. But when she fell a second time, she was swept over the bridge into the waters of Broad Run.

The man drove the truck to a nearby quarry to look for the woman before witnesses called police. While on the phone with a 911 operator, the witness saw Samis’ car go over the side of the bridge and watched it swept down Broad Run.

Later Friday, a vehicle was spotted about a quarter-mile away, but high water conditions made it too difficult to confirm whether it was Samis’ or to attempt to rescue anyone inside, police said. His body was found at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

Police originally believed another person may have been in the sedan with Samis, but authorities determined after interviews with his family and witnesses that he was likely traveling alone.

On Saturday, Glassman inspected the damage. He said the entire county was affected to some degree, but Darlington, Churchville and Abingdon “got the worst of it.”

He urged people on the roads to look out for emergency responders and heed signs and barricades, even if the roads look safe.

“Don’t move them and still go across,” Glassman said. “We’re hearing people still driving across, and they’re not safe. That’s why we barricaded them. If people move them, go across and the bridge collapses, our first responders have to risk their lives again for someone who drove where they shouldn’t have.”

Glassman said he is confident that the damage will exceed a minimum of $900,000 necessary to trigger aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He deployed about 80 public works employees and engineers to survey the damage and begin repairs. Rescue teams from across the region joined Harford authorities, including ones from Baltimore and Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard counties and Chester County, Pa.

Baltimore Sun reporters Justin Fenton and Sarah Meehan contributed to this article.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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