New storm out-rains Isabel in area

Sun Staff

They might have escaped the fury of Tropical Storm Isabel, but communities from Western Maryland to Carroll County were hit hard by torrential rains that struck overnight Monday.

The latest storm flooded roads and bridges, destroyed crops and opened a gigantic sinkhole that devoured a swath of land along Interstate 70 in Frederick.

Rain swelled the Patapsco River yesterday morning, causing its muddy waters to overflow and flood River Road in Baltimore County. In the county's northeast section, the Ensor Road bridge had to be closed after water eroded the earth around its footings. And in Harford County, flooding closed part of Route 7 and several streets in Havre de Grace.

The National Weather Service recorded 2.38 inches at with the passage of the cold front overnight Monday. That was more than the 2.21 inches recorded Sept. 18-19 at BWI during Isabel.

But one of the most-soaked cities yesterday was Frederick, where 4.5 inches of rain fell. A new $65 million Carroll Creek flood-management system designed to protect the city's downtown business district was successful in diverting waters away from businesses and homes into grassy Baker Park.

Just too much rain

But Isabel and the rainstorms drenched the area beyond what it could handle.

Yesterday the water so weakened a grassy area along eastbound I-70 at South Street that it created a 100-foot-long sinkhole 50 feet wide and 40 feet deep. The sinkhole, which had a large uprooted elm tree lying in its middle, forced the closure of eastbound I-70 for more than three hours, as highway officials assessed the problem.

Robert L. Fisher, state highway administration district engineer for Frederick, Carroll and Howard counties, said it could take up to two days to repair the hole. But he said the highway administration did not believe the hole posed a threat to I-70 or South Street.

"All of the rains that we've had contributed to the sinkhole," Fisher said. "South Street's secure, Interstate 70 is secure."

Trains stopped, in case

The highway administration did keep South Street closed around the sinkhole to help state highway workers. Throughout the day, workers filled the hole with dirt and rocks to stabilize the area.

The yawning sinkhole also led to the cancellation - yesterday through at least tomorrow - of Maryland Rail Commuter service between Washington, D.C., and Frederick.

MARC's Brunswick Line track passes within 100 feet of the hole, Maryland Transit Administration spokesman Richard Scher said.

Engineers will evaluate whether the sinkhole could threaten the track. "This is precautionary," Scher said. "There was no damage done to the tracks that we're aware of."

The shutdown affects six trains that usually carry a total of 100 commuters a day to and from Frederick, Scher said. MTA plans to shuttle the Frederick commuters by bus to the Monocacy train station in the morning and back again at night until Frederick service resumes, he said.

The storm also knocked out power at Frederick City Hall for several hours and caused basement flooding in that building and some homes. But that flooding was an isolated problem, not related to Carroll Creek downtown, officials said.

The system worked

Nancy Poss, a spokeswoman for Frederick Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty, said the city's flood-management system successfully handled the water filling the creek.

"It was almost surreal," Poss said. "The Carroll Creek project worked as it was supposed to."

But farmers in particular suffered substantial losses.

Arthur Tyeryar, 56, said he lost as much as $21,000 worth of soybeans in the rains.

"The hurricane didn't get me but the flood did," Tyeryar said. "I'll take a drought over this year any day. I made money last year. I'm taking a licking this year."

George Umberger, 60, said he lost several acres of corn, amounting to several thousand dollars. Surrounded by the Monocacy River and Carroll Creek, Umberger herded his cows in from the fields yesterday to protect them from the flood waters.

"This is a slow death," Umberger said. "I've seen bad times. This ain't the worst. But it all hurts."

At a warehouse for Frederick Memorial Hospital - also in the floodplain - workers spent yesterday afternoon piling sandbags around the building for fear that water would reach it. The structure houses $1.2 million - or a week's worth - of medical supplies for the hospital as well as medical records and X-ray films.

In 1985, the former Clorox building flooded with 18 inches of water when the Monocacy River ran over its banks. Hospital officials said they were taking precautions to help prevent a similar occurrence.

"I don't think we're going to get hammered the way we could," said Richard W. Lashley, Frederick Memorial's director of materials management. "If we don't get any more than what we did in '85, we'll be able to handle it."

City officials in Frederick said they expected flooding in some of the city's outlying areas but did not anticipate any problems in the downtown business district.

River over its banks

Upstream from Frederick in Carroll County, the Monocacy River flowed at least 6 feet over its banks early yesterday, closing roads and flooding Tim Straiter's park-like waterfront property. Straiter has owned the land, believed to be the site of a long-gone mill, since 1999. He called the flooding "the worst we've seen."

The heavy overnight rains - 2.86 inches in Westminster but measured at up to 4 inches in other areas of Carroll - hit the county in a way that Isabel did not. By Monday, county schools were back in session. Yesterday, with flashfloods blocking travel on more than 30 county roads, schools were closed again.

The flooding in Carroll trapped two motorists who had to be rescued, filled basements with water and opened two small sinkholes.

In Detour, a tributary of the Monocacy River covered the main road through town. In the town of Union Bridge, a creek that normally runs under the town's Main Street became a river that ran 5 feet deep and 30 feet across the road.

At one Union Bridge home, 400 sandbags packed at the base of the house in anticipation of Isabel were not enough to prevent 3 feet of water from filling the basement yesterday.

By 8 a.m. the water was flowing into the house, said Sandy Forney, the homeowner's mother. "And it just kept a-rising," she said.

Sun staff writers Cryil T. Zaneski, Lisa Goldberg, Sheridan Lyons and Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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