Union Bridge, residents surrounding Pipe Creek prepare for Hurricane Florence rain

Ron Stonesifer was mowing the lawn at the Lions Club Park adjacent to the Union Mills Homestead on Wednesday afternoon, at times driving over areas rendered bare from recent flooding.

He said the Silver Run Union Mills Lions Club has a rotation system to make sure the lawn gets mowed every week — and he was doing his job regardless of the influx of water that washed over the grounds just this past weekend.


“There was a lot of flooding by Big Pipe Creek,” Stonesifer said, pointing toward the creek with one hand, holding gloves and earplugs in the other. “The first big storm, it came up so far — 18 inches in the mower shed — and it started out on the highway. It was all washed up there.

“It moved the tree trunks away,” he said. “There was a big tree limb on the ditch on this side of [Md.] 97, bales of straw behind the shed were washed down.”


But even though this summer has been full of flooding in Maryland, he said nothing could be done to prepare for potential rains from Hurricane Florence.

“It just can’t take no more water,” Stonesifer said, shaking his head.

Even though Hurricane Florence is projected to pummel the Carolina coast with its heaviest winds, southern Maryland is still at risk for heavy rains.

And even a little bit of rainfall could bring flooding to Carroll County again.

The ‘flood capital’ of Carroll County

Farther west, Big Pipe Creek becomes Little Pipe Creek and flows through Union Bridge, a town local shop owner John Tokar calls “the Carroll County flood capital.”

Before working on antique car restoration, Tokar worked for 25 years at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in engineering, oceanography and meteorology.

On Wednesday afternoon, the doors to his 52 N. Main St. shop, Vintage Restoration Limited, were open. Cardboard and rubber mats ran across the office floor to protect a newly installed carpet; the old one was destroyed with water damage.

“It seems like every time it rains, this freaking place floods,” Tokar said. “This past month we’ve spent cleaning mud out of the shop.”

After a near-record rainy summer flooded out events and washed out dams, a wet September, darkened by the potential cloud shadows of hurricane Florence, may muddy the outlook for high profile festivals.

The most recent flooding happened this past weekend, he said.

“There was an engineering plan to add additional culverts for floods, 12 years ago through a revitalization project,” he said. “This river is not adequate to handle flows. It has to do with the source areas. They are fine, but it all flows down here.”

By the time water and runoff from Silver Run, Union Mills and Littlestown, Pa., get to Union Bridge — in addition to the town’s own rainfall — it floods the area surrounding the bridge, often causing road closures up to Tuck’s Service Center, he said.

To prepare for this weekend, Tokar said he moved eight cars out of the shop. Some of them have wooden parts that cannot dry properly, he said.

A car at Vintage Restoration Limited underwater after flooding in Union Bridge during the summer of 2018.
A car at Vintage Restoration Limited underwater after flooding in Union Bridge during the summer of 2018. (Contributed/Dean Pennington)

“But fortunately the storm is moving in a southwesterly direction,” Tokar said as he pulled up the storm’s trajectory on his phone. “Rainfall projection from NOAA is just an inch and a half to several inches [for Carroll].

“This [area] is kind of like a soup bowl,” he said. “As far as the storm goes, it’s really a nonissue now unless something drastically changes. We are really dealing with water this area can’t handle. Every month it floods in town. The frequency is out of control.”

Relocating valuables is one way to prepare for inclement weather, Carroll County Emergency Management Coordinator Doug Brown said. He also recommends elevating items in low basement areas.

“For privately owned properties, just know where you’re at,” he said. “Do you live in an area that’s prone to flooding? Then you need to make sure you’ve taken certain precautions. It could be as simple as maybe in your basement you put things on shelves or pallets, plastic shelves, or on things that won’t be disturbed by water so your items are not ruined.”

Tokar’s neighbors, the folks at Terry’s Tag and Title, said that’s their plan.

“I’m gonna put everything up as high as we can get it,” said Title Clerk Debbie Weishaar. “I’m gonna make sure the computers, anything that’s electrical [gets moved]. And I’ll bring the chairs to a central location that might not get flooding.”

Behind her the carpet had been stripped up in the shop leaving a bare floor beneath it — with a few lone fiber strands still attached around the perimeter.

Also, around the perimeter of the room the walls had been cut out up to about 6 inches above the floor due to water damage.

Weishaar said although she has only been working at the title shop for about three years, she has lived in Union Bridge for a long time and has seen a lot of flooding.

“It does interfere with daily life up in Union Bridge,” she said. “Something definitely needs to be done here.”

A road closure in Union Bridge on Sept. 9, 2018 due to flooding.
A road closure in Union Bridge on Sept. 9, 2018 due to flooding. (Contributed/ Dean Pennington)

Mayor Perry Jones

Union Bridge Mayor Perry Jones has not only dealt with concerned residents when it comes to flooding, he has also dealt with water in his own shop this summer.

“Just the other day we got 12 inches of water in here,” he said while sitting in the office at Tuck’s Service Center on Wednesday. “During the last week of July and first two weeks of August it flooded three times in two weeks — 6 inches, 25 inches and 26 ½ inches.

“There’s been a lot of talk about what to do with the bridge,” he said. “But it’s going to flood no matter what because there’s nowhere for the water to go.”

Tuck's Service Center, the first licensed, black-owned business in Carroll County, celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 1. The Jones family hopes to keep it in the family for many more.

Within the past 20 years, the town reconstructed Little Pipe Creek with help from the county, and planted trees that can soak up some of the water. The mayor said that has helped a lot.

There are also requirements for stormwater management ponds that help water flow back into the creek slowly.

But aside from projects to help mitigate flooding, Jones recommends anyone looking to learn more about emergency preparedness go to the county’s event scheduled for Sept. 22, and hopes to host his own event locally in collaboration with the Union Bridge volunteer fire company.

“It teaches people what to do in an emergency,” said Jones. “How to get out of town, out of their homes.

“I want to make a map, so people know how to get in and out of town,” he said, “[recommend] having candles, flashlights. We just want to prepare our community better. Any community can always be better prepared.”

If Main Street closes this weekend, Jones said, there is still Shepherds Mill Road — which was put in to divert trucks from Md. 75 and to use as an alternative to Main Street if needed.


And he’s ready for that.

A sign that says “Road closed, high water” still stands in the grass next to Tuck’s Service Center from the last flood.

“I just left them in case I have to pull them out,” Jones said. “This road has been closed from here to the bridge recently.”

Brown, Carroll’s emergency management coordinator said that information about countywide road closures can be found on the Carroll County government website, and that his department will be diligent in monitoring flood roads this weekend.

“In Carroll County, we’ve had a lot of rain over the last few months,” Brown said, “and as such, many [frequently flooded] roads, we know where they are and people around them know where they are. As they flood, our crews go out and close them, and we monitor them until the water goes down.

“If the roads flood,” he said, “we close them, we go out, and then we open them.”

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