ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County residents are in for a wet weekend as an existing southeastern storm system and the potential arrival of Hurricane Joaquin may dump 6-10 inches of rain in the area through Sunday.
Kevin Witt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service for Baltimore and Washington, said while there is “no clear-cut path” for the hurricane to keep, “we’re looking at a couple big potential waves of rain coming in.”
That includes possible flooding, with 1-1.5 inches of rain falling per hour at its peak, producing 4-6 inches of rain in a 6 to12-hour period between Friday and Sunday.
Witt projected most rain would fall Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon and “could teeter-totter either way” between occasional showers and severe storms.
“You’re looking at 6-10 inches of rain over the region between now and Sunday,” said Witt.
He also cautioned residents living near rivers, streams and creeks to be on guard for flooding by the end of the weekend as it’s likely the rain will cause running water to overflow the land banks.
Witt particularly zeroed in on people living near the Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Potomac watershed areas.
As of Joaquin, “It’s a hurricane right now, but as it moves closer to the coast, it’s tough to tell what it’s going to do or how close to the coast it’s going to be,” he added.
Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said the director of the city’s Public Works Department briefed her before noon Wednesday.
“We’re just making sure our storm drains are clear,” she said, adding Public Works crews will be available throughout the weekend to take care of fallen trees and other obstructions.
Newton mentioned city staff will “bring in people” for utility repairs, such as Pepco.
The city as a whole is “at a higher elevation,” so citywide flooding shouldn’t be an issue, according to the mayor.
However, in the city’s low-lying areas, “We will be prepared to have barricades.”
According to Rockville Police Major Mike England, as of Wednesday afternoon, the city police had “no issues” and had not received directions yet from the Montgomery County Emergency Management Group.
“So at this point in time we’re just seeing how this storm tracks and how it’s going to play out and when,” he said, later adding, “At this time, we don’t have any specifics.”
Newton explained the city staff’s response to the storm will be coordinated between multiple offices.
She described her own role as supporting the staff.
“Anything that one (department) needs, it’ll be all hands on deck,” she said.
City of Rockville citizens can report traffic light outages and other utility problems by dialing the city’s 24-7 hotline at (240) 314-8567.
“My best advice for people is to stay home and let the professionals do their jobs,” said Newton.
Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department Capt. John Peppel explained first responders “are ready.”
Takoma Park is at a flooding risk from the Northwest Branch stream and the Rock Creek tributary, according to Pete Piringer, spokesperson for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.
Piringer said a section of Sligo Creek Parkway and Beach Drive would be closed for flooding with gates placed along Sligo Creek for such an occasion.
“We like to say we’re prepared for any kind of hazard that comes our way,” said Piringer.
Piringer recommended residents keep an eye on the weather and government alerts.
“It doesn’t take much moving water to move a vehicle or knock someone over,” he cautioned, also mentioning it takes less than a foot of water to stop a vehicle.
Piringer said the following Gaithersburg roads are prone to flooding: Route 117 Clopper Road near Seneca Creek and Little Seneca Creek, portions of Route 355 Frederick Road west of Brink Road and Davis Mill Road at Great Seneca Creek north of Gaithersburg.
Gaithersburg Emergency Management Coordinator Skip Lanham said city residents can receive the latest information about time-sensitive traffic, weather and public safety information by signing up for Alert Gaithersburg email or text alerts at the city’s website.
The county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security has a similar program called Alert Montgomery. Residents can register for it online.
Calls placed to OEMHS Wednesday were not immediately returned.
Lanham said he had not heard of massive evacuations occurring in either Gaithersburg or Montgomery County due to storms, though he added some people may need to relocate in the case of a power outage.
He recommended residents keep flashlights, batteries and medications on hand in order to prepare for possible power outages.