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Up to 5 inches of rain fell around Bel Air in 'localized event' Thursday that caused flooding and stranded motorists

A massive rainstorm that hit Harford County during the evening rush hour Thursday led to multiple rescues of motorists caught in high water at intersections in Bel Air and the surrounding areas.

More than 20 swift water rescue calls were reported around the area between 5 and 9:30 p.m.

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Luis Rosa, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said Friday that the heaviest rainfall was over Bel Air, which received nearly 5 inches.

He said 3 to 4 inches fell in areas such as Fallston, Darlington, Hickory and Pleasant Hill.

Rosa said radar images at the NWS' Baltimore-Washington Forecast Office in Sterling, Va. showed much of the rain falling north of I-95 between Fallston and the east bank of the Susquehanna River.

"It was a localized event, really," he said. "Baltimore County didn't have that much rain compared to Harford County.

Rosa reported several road closures caused by flash flooding, including Route 543 and Chestnut Hill Road in Hickory, Winters Run Road and Singer Road north of Joppa and East Wheel Road and Patterson Mill Road south of Bel Air.

Bynum Run broke its banks, and floodwaters could be seen along Moores Mill Road, Southampton Road and Route 22.

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East of the town, the high water rolled over Route 22 where the stream normally flows under the highway, and traffic was snarled as many drivers turned around.

Other motorists braved the flood and sent up plumes of water as they drove through.

Bill Wehland, a member of St. Matthew Lutheran Church at Route 22 and Brierhill Drive, took photos of flooded land behind the church.

Swiftly-moving water, that Wehland estimated was about 2 feet deep, covered much of the trunks of smaller trees.

He noted the county has previously prohibited the church from developing the land because of flood risks.

"They said, 'you can't build on it, it's a floodplain!' " he recalled. "Now I understand why!"

The Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company reported on its Facebook page that members responded to 18 "storm-related" calls between 5 and 7:30 p.m. Eight of those calls involved swift-water rescues.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m., rescuers were called to St. Francis Road and Marywood Drive in the Bel Air North area to aid a motorist trapped in high water, according to Harford County fire officials.

By 6:15 p.m., Rock Spring Road was reported to be flooded and impassible by the entrance to the Harford County Detention Center.

More high water calls followed along Route 543 between Route 1 and Route 22.

Police blocked the intersection of Hickory Avenue and Moores Mill Road, as rescue workers saved a stranded motorist.

Hickory Avenue was closed off for several blocks from the flooded intersection, and drivers were redirected up Harlan Street before American Legion Post 39.

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Portions of the residential streets behind the Legion post were also flooded, as were residents' yards.

Moores Mill and Hickory was closed for about 90 minutes, fire officials said.

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