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News Maryland Harford County Bel Air

More than a week later, effects of big rain still felt in Harford

The spring storm that pushed through Harford County April 30 dumped from five to nine inches of rain, leaving some people stranded on the roofs of cars on flooded roads, others knee deep in water in their basements and farmers needing to replant washed out crops.

Harford County emergency officials called it "the worst storm event" in months, even worse than the winter snowstorms, as county personnel worked overtime hours to deal with numerous emergencies during and after the storm.

Some effects continue to be felt more than a week later.

ServPro of Harford County, a Joppa-based private damage restoration company, received 300 calls for request for service during the storm, Operations Manager Lou Otremba said Thursday.

Many residents experienced several inches of water in their basements from flooding and sump pump failures, Otremba said.

Damage 'really intense'

The small business, of 10 full-time production employees, typically services about 10 water damages per week, he said.

"The damage to our county was really intense," Otremba said. "In a hurricane you lose power, that's predictable, but this is the first time in a long time sump pumps couldn't keep up."

The Harford area has seen quite a few water damage related storms lately, Otremba said, referring to the polar vortex, which hit the area last winter and caused considerable water damage from burst pipes.

Otremba said the average cost of a water damage claim can run upward of $5,000, not including replacing furniture, drywall and other repairs. If a furnace is damaged by high water in a basement, the tab can be much higher.

Kathy Polley, business developer at Service Masters of Bel Air, a family-owned damage restoration company, said clients they are servicing had from 18 inches to as much as five feet of water in their homes from the storm.

"It's a peril of nature," Polley said. "Our grounds just couldn't hold all this water."

She said the majority of their claims are coming from the Bel Air, Abingdon and Edgewood areas. She said Darlington and Street also had some sporadic reports of flooded basements.

Polley said most people in the area do not have flood insurance, just sewer and drain back-up insurance. She said some insurance companies are approving the claims, as sewer and drain back-ups from sump pump malfunctions, but some are being marked as floods.

Spring planting delays

Mike Doran, president of the Harford County Farm Bureau, said the heavy rain caused some minor damage at farms around the county, mostly in the form of washouts causing ditches and gullies in fields.

"The biggest things it did was just back us up a little bit with spring planting and getting into the fields," Doran said.

From the beginning of spring through mid-May, Doran said, farmers have a small window to plant their spring crops, particularly corn and soybeans, the county's two top cash crops.

"The rain backed up low lying fields up to a week and there is more rain on the horizon," Doran said Wednesday afternoon.

Doran said he received some reports of corn and hay seeds being washed away.

"Our biggest thing we really need is warmer temperatures," Doran said. "Most people haven't even started planting anything because of the cooler weather we've been having."

Zach Rose, co-owner of Clear Meadow Farm, a family-owned farm in White Hall, said they had already planted about 600 acres of corn when the storm hit April 30.

"We are probably going to have to replant 20 percent of that and the rain washed [the corn] right out of the row," said Rose, who plants about 4,500 acres of corn each season across the region.

Rose said there is no way to keep that much rainfall from affecting newly planted crops or from washing away chemicals and fertilizer used in production.

Rose said he will watch production numbers as the season continues to see how much damage was sustained from the storm.

"Time is very important, you only have so much time to get everything done," Rose said. "You try to do it one time right, so you don't have to do it again."

Unheeded warnings

At the height of the storm, 36 roads across Harford County were flooded or impassable from debris that washed up from rising creeks, according officials from Harford County Department of Emergency Services.

Though residents and motorists were urged in numerous robocalls to stay away from low-lying areas and flooded roadways, emergency services spokesman Robert Thomas said many did not heed.

Fire services and technical rescue crews ran 12 calls for water rescues during the storm, including one in Baltimore County and another in Cecil County, Thomas said.

"The vast majority of those incidents could have been easily avoided," he said. "We had warning on this storm; it didn't sneak up on us."

Thomas said debris, floods and partially down wires obstructed many of the roads; however, in less than 24 hours after the storm subsided, all but one was fully open.

Dam repair

One major concern during the storm occurred midday April 30, when officials from emergency services and county public works, questioned the integrity of a county owned and maintained earthen dam across Little Deer Creek, near the 4400 block of Harford Creamery Road in White Hall, Thomas said.

With the heavy rain, water in the impoundment behind the dam rose quickly because of a clogged outlet pipe.

The county Department of Public Works set up 4,000 gallon per minute pumps later on April 30 in an effort to reduce the water level by eight feet so repairs could be made to the spillway, Thomas said.

Those activities are continuing, he said.

Thomas said he hopes the issues with the dam will be fully resolved in the next few weeks.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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