Laurel residents evacuated during dam release can return to their homes

Melanie Dzwonchyk

Laurel city spokeswoman Audrey Barnes said Thursday morning that residents who were evacuated because authorities opened the gates of Duckett Dam could return to their homes. They were encouraged to evacuate after authorities opened the gates of the nearby dam because of concern about the stability of the structure.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said it opened all seven gates of the dam to relieve water pressure after the heavy rains on Tuesday and Wednesday. The WSSC is closing the dam gates opened during the rainfall.

The American Legion commuter parking lot is still under water and is expected to stay closed until Monday, Barnes said.

Laurel resident Royana Miles found out about the flooding Thursday morning when she brought her dog for a walk at Riverfront Park. She only made it the park entrance off Ninth Street, because the Patuxent River had flooded the paved path that winds through the woods along the river.
"I just walked down here; I didn't know it was going on, but I figured it was because of all the rain," said Miles, who lives on Ninth Street on higher ground. "That's usually how it ends up."
Car dealership owner Fred Frederick arrived to check the damage at his body shop, which shares a parking lot with the American Legion's commuter lot adjacent to Laurel's MARC station. The water was still more than a foot deep in parts of the parking area, but was receding.
Frederick expressed skepticism that WSSC followed the best procedures by opening the gates at Duckett Dam.
"They could have prevented this," Frederick said, eyeing the deep water surrounding his shop.
A man slogged through the water in thigh-high wadding boots to reach the door of Progressive car rental, next door to Frederick's shop.
City officials said it is likely that the American Legion parking lot will remain closed through Monday.

On Tuesday, Laurel city officials closed the path along the Patuxent River in Riverfront Park and the commuter parking lot at the Laurel American Legion

On Wednesday, the Prince George's County Department of Public Works and Transportation took additional steps because of the changing conditions.

It closed Governors Bridge Road, and Brock Bridge Road at the Prince George's/Anne Arundel County line because of high water. DPW&T anticipates that Brock Bridge Road will reopen sometime Thursday.

DPW&T has also posted high-water warning signs on Sunnyside Avenue at Indian Creek Bridge in Beltsville, Parkwood Street at Fairwood Road in Landover, and Contee Road at Mayfair Road in Laurel.

Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this report.

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