Many Carroll County roads remained closed Thursday, July 26, after potentially historic levels of rain soaked the area, flooding roads, downing trees and wires, creating sinkholes and transforming streams to fast flowing rapids.
As of Thursday afternoon, seven county roads remained closed, according to the Carroll County Bureau of Roads Operations. The bureau cited a handful of reasons for road closures: “washed out,” “flooding,” “tree in wires” and “sinkhole.”
When a road is washed out, it means that the road’s surface — gravel or asphalt — has been damaged or swept away, said Doug Brown, Carroll County emergency management coordinator. And when a road is still flooded, repair crews can’t assess the damage, he added.
At one point Wednesday night or early Thursday morning the county knew of at least 60 road closures, Brown said.
Parts of various roads — including Tannery Road, Kern Road, Lineboro Road East, Falls Road, Unger Road, Stone Road and Syndersburg Road — remained closed as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the roads operations bureau.
Over the past three days, 4 to 7 inches of rain fell on Carroll, said Cody Ledbetter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. There seemed to be a higher concentration of rainfall in the northeastern part of the county, he said.
“We had a storm system set up to our west,” Ledbetter explained. “It basically stalled” and funneled moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
The Millers area of Carroll has received as much rainfall up to date in 2018 as it did for the entirety of 2017, Ledbetter said. Cranberry Branch Creek in Westminster reached a peak water level of 8.73 feet, smashing the previous record of 7.5 feet, he said.
The West Branch North Branch Patapsco River flooded the entirety of Bennett Cerf Park in Westminster during Wednesday night’s flood.
Picnic tables and benches were lifted and strewn across the park during the storm, and even though the waters descended back to normal by the morning, the chain link fences and the chains of swings across the site were covered in muck, plant debris and sticks up to 7 feet above ground.
Carroll County Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Degitz, who has been with the county for 28 years, stood opposite the dog park Thursday afternoon, debris decorating the fence behind him.
“I’ve seen flooding down here before,” he said, “but never like this.”
First responders around Carroll County performed numerous swift-water rescues Wednesday evening and into the early hours of Thursday.
Throughout the peak of the storm, between 8:30 and 11 p.m., there were about 100 calls to 911, Brown said. Fifteen of those calls required swift water rescues.
“We have two 911 call centers in the county,” said Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R District-1, at a Board of County Commissioners meeting Thursday. “Even people who were not working last night came in to volunteer at the 911 centers. That’s just how we are here in Carroll.
“We can fix our pipes and culverts; luckily no lives were lost.”
Many people don’t realize the power of flowing water, explained Bruce Bouch, public information officer for the Gamber fire volunteer fire company.
“Six inches of water at a fast rate can take somebody off their feet and sweep them down stream,” Bouch said. “Get up to 12 inches or more and you can take an SUV, and, of course, the debris in the water and the mud and everything else obscure the roadway to the point where you don’t even know if the roadway is still there.”
Lots of the rescues yesterday occurred because drivers attempted to drive their cars through flooded roads.
“Many of the instances yesterday, where vehicles were driven where they shouldn’t have been, and that’s where the theory of ‘Turn around, don’t drown’ comes in,” Bouch emphasized. “Many times you’ll find that you’re in a car and you’ll think, ‘Eh, it’s not that deep, water’s not moving that fast,’ but you don’t realize that an engine, once it is flooded, it can stall very rapidly.”
When individuals are stranded, swift-water technicians are called upon to rescue them.
“They have ropes; they have special flotation devices for not only [first responders] but to get to a passenger, and retrieve them and bring back to dry land,” Bouch said. “It can involve something as simple as having poles to test the surface ahead of you … to utilizing small inflatable craft, to larger watercraft.”
Flooding can be seen at Md. 27, where two men got stuck heading southbound past Nicodemus Road on Wednesday evening, July 25.
Swift-water rescues require upstream and downstream spotters, Bouch explained. Upstream to alert rescuers to debris floating toward them and downstream in case somebody is swept away by the current — the spotter needs to be in a position to retrieve the individual.
And it’s not limited to cars. Some low-lying homes are susceptible to flash floods.