Harford County emergency officials dealt with what one called "the worst storm event" in months, as the county was caught in a massive deluge that dropped up to 9 inches of rain in some areas between late Tuesday night and early Thursday morning.
Fire companies and members of the county's Technical Rescue Team responded to multiple situations in which motorists became stranded in high water, as creeks and drainage culverts overflowed their banks.
Drivers were stranded despite posted warnings to avoid areas of high water.
"Our biggest challenge was the number of motorists that just did not pay attention to directions, that did not heed warnings and signage on blocked roads," Robert Thomas, spokesman for the county Department of Emergency Services, said Thursday.
County emergency officials urged residents to "shelter in place" late Wednesday afternoon, as the waters of Winters Run overflowed its banks in Joppa.
Flash flooding caused deep standing water and road closures all over the county, from two-lane secondary roads in rural areas to major highways, in particular Route 40 which runs through the county from Joppa to Havre de Grace and roughly follows the low lying coastal plain, and Route 24 in Street near Deer Creek.
More than 30 sections of county roads were closed Wednesday night, and two sections – one along Craigs Corner Road near Havre de Grace and the other along Falling Branch Road in Street – remained closed Thursday, according to county emergency services. For updates visit http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/alerts/Roads.
Many of those closures, and the subsequent rescues, came during the Wednesday afternoon commute home.
"This was the worst storm event that we had to work through in the past six months," Thomas said. "This surpassed any of the winter storms with snow and ice; we had far more challenges with the flooding conditions, the road closures, the rescues and things along that line than we had during some of the other storms."
Thomas said members of the county Technical Rescue Team responded to 12 incidents, including one on the Harford-Baltimore County line, and another in Cecil County, between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m. Wednesday. They supported fire companies who responded.
Five people were rescued after becoming trapped in a vehicle along Sandy Hook Road, near the intersection with Walters Mill Road in Street, because of the Deer Creek flooding, and five were rescued in the Joppa area because of Winters Run flooding.
One of those rescued in Joppa was a "juvenile" who was taken to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air with "non life-threatening injuries," according to the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company.
Thomas said the driver of a school bus had to be assisted by a sheriff's deputy after the bus became stranded in 10 to 12 inches of water near the intersection of Route 7 and Route 136 in Creswell.
"Thankfully the bus was not occupied by school children," Thomas said.
Thomas said 4 to 5 inches of rain fell in northern Harford County, and 7 inches fell from Bel Air to the southern part of the county.
Gerry Luft, a meteorologist with the ATC Meteorology Team at Aberdeen Proving Ground, said 6.68 inches fell at Phillips Army Air Field from Monday to Thursday. He said the majority, about 6 inches, fell during Wednesday's storm.
Eleanor Edwards, who lives in the South Tollgate area near Bel Air, recorded 9 inches between 6 a.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday on her home rain gauge.
"When it opened up, it was horrible [Wednesday] night," Edwards said. "The rain gutters couldn't even take it."
Havre de Grace flooding
Havre de Grace residents had to deal with multiple blocked roads, including two of the three main arteries in and out of the city.