Harford County emergency officials began bracing for potential flooding Tuesday afternoon, with between 3 to 5 inches of additional rain forecast to fall on the county in the ensuing 24 to 48 hours.
Representatives from the Harford County Department of Emergency Services and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency went to the north county area Tuesday afternoon to ask some residents along Little Deer Creek to consider leaving their homes because an earthen dam was in potential danger of being breached.
County Emergency Manager Rick Ayers said residents of three homes were being asked to leave because emergency repairs were unlikely to be made immediately to the dam.
"It's not a mandatory evacuation; it's strictly voluntary," Robert Thomas, spokesman for the department of emergency services, emphasized. "We have an obligation to notify them under the county's emergency plan."
According to Thomas, the dam is in the 4400 block of Harford Creamery Road on private property owned by the McKnight family; however, the dam itself is county owned and maintained. It was built in 1961 by the Harford Soil Conservation District.
"Leakage was discovered earlier today, possibly because of an obstructed spillway, which engineers with DPW are trying to resolve," Thomas said. "Our concern is that with the anticipated 3 to 5 inches of additional rain, the dam could suffer structural integrity issues."
"There is no threat to life safety, but there is a threat of possible property damage," added Thomas, who said the lake is 44 feet at its deepest. He didn't know the surface dimensions of the lake. He said later Tuesday the dam is holding 8 million cubic feet of water.
"We are notifying occupants of one home in the 4000 block of Madonna Road and of two homes in the 2000 block of Mt. Horeb and requesting that they leave before nightfall," Thomas continued. "We are also at this time considering closing roads in the area because of the potential for flooding later this evening."
Shortly before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thomas said Ayers and DES Director Russell Strickland had visited the three properties in the previous hour and told the owners of the two on Mt. Horeb they could stay.
"These two appear to be at sufficient elevation, so the owners were just told they are in an evacuation area recommended by the state," he explained.
Thomas said no one was home at the house on Madonna Road, so the DES officials left information behind.
With an inch of rain expected by noon Wednesday and up to 5 inches possible by Thursday morning, Thomas said the county will continue to monitor the situation.
Thomas also said the Emergency Operations Center was placed on Level 3 staffing Tuesday afternoon "to monitor the storm, the dam issue and the evacuation of those three residences." Level 3 means the center is fully activated with emergency operations staff only, he said.
The county is under a flash flood watch through early Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service, and a coastal flood watch was due to take effect at 12 a.m. Wednesday until noon Friday.
Thomas said the immediate concern from the continuing rain is that flooding could occur in low lying areas and that tidal surges could affect coastal areas in Havre de Grace and Joppatowne in particular.
"Beyond that, it's anyone's guess what will happen," he added.
In addition to potential flooding, Thomas said there is a concern for power outages because the National Weather Service is also forecasting wind gusts as high as 25 mph into late Wednesday night when the rain finally begins tapering off.
"When you have a lot of rain and strong winds, you definitely have a risk for power outages," he said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun