By C.J. LOVELACE
12:19 PM EDT, October 30, 2012
Thousands of Washington County residents were without electricity, dozens of roads were flooded and a threat of more rain and flooding remained at midday Tuesday after the remnants of Hurricane Sandy swept thorugh the county overnight.
A flood warning remained in effect for Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg through Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service. At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the creek had reached 9.3 feet, about a foot over flood stage. The creek is expected to crest at about 11.5 feet by 8 p.m. Tuesday, the weather service said.
At 10 a.m., water from Antietam Creek was spilling over the guardrail onto Burnside Bridge Road near Sharpsburg.
The road is closed at Churchey Road, and the water is spilling over less than two miles west of that.
Multiple vehicles have driven up to where the water covers the road but then turned around.
Moderate flooding is expected Tuesday on the Conococheague Creek at Fairview, the weather service reported. At 9 a.m., the creek was at 10.5feet, just above of flood stage of 10 feet. It's expected to crest at 13 feet Tuesday evening, according to the NWS.
The Potomac River at Hancock is expected to crest at 23 feet, about a foot below flood stage, Wednesday morning, according to the weather service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.
At Williamsport, the river is expected to crest at 20 feet, about 3 feet below flood stage, early Wednesday morning, according to the prediction service.
All state highways in Washington County were open to traffic by late Tuesday morning, county spokeswoman Sarah Lankford Sprecher said. About two dozen roads in the county remained closed, however.
FirstEnergy’s website was reporting 5,289 Potomac Edison customers without power in the county at 12:02 p.m. Tuesday. The majority were in the Hagerstown, Clear Spring and Maugansville areas, according to the website. That doesn’t mean that everyone in that area was affected.
Power was restored to 40 Hagerstown Light Department customers who lost electricity during the storm, City of Hagerstown spokeswoman Erin Wolfe said.
Around 5 p.m. Monday, a tree leaned on a power line and blew a transformer along National Pike near Spickler Road outside of Clear Spring, a Washington County 911 supervisor said.
Among several incidents on county roads, a blue pickup truck crashed into a utility pole along Md. 68 near the Interstate 81 exit shortly after 9 a.m. Monday when roads were wet, emergency officials said.
A section of eastbound Md. 68 was closed for at least two hours as a Potomac Edison crew made repairs because the utility pole was broken by the impact, according to Maryland State Police and emergency service officials.
FirstEnergy had 300 linemen and other support personnel in Maryland on Monday, as well as 150 additional linemen in the area, that would be dispatched where needed, according to an email from spokesman Todd Meyers.
Crews will work 16 hours on, eight hours off, with shifts staggered so crews will be working 24 hours a day with storm coverage, Meyers said. There might be times when workers cannot safely work in bucket trucks due to high winds, falling trees, and flying debris, he said.
The priority for repairs is to first address major transmission lines to substations, Meyers said. Then, crews make sure hospitals and police stations have power, he said.
After that, crews tackle fixes that will restore power to large numbers of customers, fixing outages that affect a small number of people last, he said.
In Washington County, high winds and heavy rains are expected to continue Tuesday, with projected accumulations of rainfall to be anywhere from 4 inches to 8 inches by the time the storm passes Tuesday evening.
According to local weather observer Greg Keefer’s website, i4weather.net, about 5.6 inches of rain had fallen in Hagerstown on Monday and early Tuesday. Since the system arrived late Sunday, about 5.9 inches of rainfall was recorded.
Tuesday's forecast calls for a mix of rain and snow showers, with highs in the low 40s, the weather service said.
Few seek shelter
Three emergency shelters were opened Monday in Washington County, but only the one in Hagerstown was used by residents, according Sprecher.
The shelter at North Hagerstown High School took in six people overnight, Sprecher said in an e-mail. The Western Maryland Hospital Center did not take anyone in overnight. Both were closed by midmorning Tuesday, Sprecher said.
The shelter at the Hancock Volunteer Fire Co. closed before midnight, Sprecher said.
Michael Piercy of the county’s Department of Social Services said the Red Cross provided food, bedding, blankets and some entertainment for those who could not stay in their homes.
The Williamsport Redmen’s Club also donated 50 dinners to those using the shelter, Piercy said.
A group of people, including North High teacher Kim O’Kane, came into the shelter around 4:30 p.m. to drop off several items, such as coloring books, crayons and some toys for kids to use.
O’Kane said she was also bringing her microwave down from her classroom.
“I just can’t imagine being outside of my house,” she said. “I know right now I just want to be comfortable and have some snacks and be with the people I love; to be doing some fun stuff. So I just wanted whoever was here to have that same opportunity.”
Road crews at work
More than 1,200 Maryland State Highway Administration crews were responding to incidents, according to a SHA news release. The agency urged people to stay home and ride out the storm.
Temperatures hovered around the mid to high 40s throughout Monday, and a high wind gust of 42 mph was recorded around 6:20 p.m., according to Keefer’s website.
Day One of the storm prompted many businesses, including numerous banks, in the area to close early, while every public school district in the Tri-State area was closed Monday and remained closed Tuesday, according to school officials.
No damage or flooding was reported at Washington County Public Schools, but some schools were affected by power outages in their communities, school system spokesman Richard Wright said. There were power outages at Sharpsburg and Pleasant Valley elementary schools and in the Clear Spring area, he said around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
No official decision has been made yet whether schools will be open on Wednesday as there are still power outages and flooding on several roads in the county, Wright said Tuesday morning.
Transportation officials were evaluating bus routes, given road closures from the storm, to determine if alternate routes were available and bus stops might need to change for some students, Wright said. The school system will contact affected families directly if bus stops change. There are some streets in the county where there aren’t alternate ways in, if flooding or other damage has occurred, he said.
If school opens Wednesday, one change that will affect students is the menu, as the school system already had food supplies in stock for Monday and Tuesday’s menus, he said. Monday’s menu would be served Wednesday, and Tuesday’s menu would be served Thursday, he said.
— Staff writers Julie E. Greene, Don Aines and Caleb Calhoun contributed to this story.
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