Maryland was hit hard by rainfall this week, but most of the damage in Montgomery County occurred over the weekend, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services Spokesperson Pete Piringer said.
According to Piringer, MCFRS received about 30 percent more calls than usual on Saturday night, many of which were related to the thunderstorms sweeping through the area.
Weekend rainfall varied throughout the region, with areas such as Gaithersburg and Damascus getting over six inches of rain, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service. Additional rain fell on Monday and Tuesday, with a brief reprieve from the showers coming Tuesday afternoon.
Despite the dry conditions for most of Tuesday, NWS issued a flash flood warning through Wednesday afternoon.
Even with differing rainfall totals, Piringer said all parts of the County have been hit by the storm, although some areas may have had more “heavy downpours” than others.
County firefighters responded to numerous incidents, including about a dozen rescues, saving drivers stranded in high water. The rescues occurred at night, due to flooded areas being made more dangerous because drivers could not see the high water directly in front of them, Piringer said.
For rescues in Kensington and Germantown, Piringer said, the department received calls where people had driven into water that was still rising and couldn’t get out.
While some roads were undrivable due to high water levels, Hurley Boulevard in Germantown and Game Preserve Road in Gaithersburg were closed due to sinkholes. The sinkhole at Hurley Boulevard occurred Saturday night, when a rusted pipe failed due to erosion from the storm, Bruce Johnston, department of transportation chief engineer, said.
Johnston said the pipe is 38 years old, and the County had been planning to replace it. On Sunday, workers brought in a couple of hundred tons of gravel to help build the area back up as a short-term solution. Johnston said a local contractor is coming in to drill concrete into the pipe to make it safe again, but he won’t know about the long-term plan until Friday because the contractor had to get a special type of drill bit to get through the metal pipe. That drill bit will be delivered on Thursday, he said.
“We want the roadway to be on a stable surface holding the road up,” Johnston said. “And right now, we have an unstable hole in the roadway.”
Since Hurley Boulevard is a major road, Johnston said, he knows the road being closed is a “discomfort,” and is asking for people to be patient as the County works to solve the problem.
As for the sinkhole at Game Preserve Road, Johnston said that was a result of a failing headwall at the end of a storm drain pipe. Piringer tweeted Tuesday evening that Game Preserve Road had closed due to the sinkhole just west of Frederick Road and east of Clopper Road near Great Seneca Creek.
The County also responded to flooded basements, and the Department of General Service Facilities received 19 requests for building-roof leaks, department spokeswoman Judy Stiles said.
Among the damaged buildings included Suburban Hospital in Bethesda; it went on generator power for 20 hours this weekend after one inch of water seeped into the hospital’s electrical room. Hospital spokesman Chris Stephenson said they used a combination of pumps, sandbags and a catchment system to eliminate the problem, and patient care was not affected. The hospital resumed using commercial power on Monday.
In Olney, 75 firefighters from 10 different MCFRS stations responded to a lightning strike of a house at the 3900 block of Queen Merry Drive on Sunday night. While the house was salvaged, Piringer said the family was displaced, and the fire caused approximately $200,000 to $300,000 in damages. One firefighter was injured during the call, but has since been treated for minor cuts and bruises.
Pepco, which provides electricity for a good portion of the County, reported that several power outages occurred throughout the region as well.
“Over the weekend Pepco did experience scattered outages across the region due to weather-related issues,” a company spokesperson wrote in an email. “Most of those outages were repaired quickly, with limited impact to our customers. We will continue to have increased staffing in place to address any issues that may arise because of the forecast.”
One such outage occurred at Wootton Avenue and Norris Road in Poolesville, snapping three telephone poles in half. Piringer said the poles have been fixed, but there may still be isolated outages in the area.
Before the storm, Stiles said Montgomery County was in a drought condition, which is not the case anymore. This means that additional rainfall will result in increased risk of flooding to susceptible areas, she said.
Piringer said County authorities are most worried about flooding in Seneca Creek at Dawsonville along the Potomac River. In a storm, Piringer said it’s important to know what areas are prone to floods, and plan ahead to avoid dangerous and potential life-threatening situations.
“You should have a general idea of what areas are susceptible to flooding,” he said. “So that when we have these storms you can take extra caution.”
In a warning issued Tuesday night, the NWS also said that there’s an increased risk of trees falling due to the flooding. The heavy rainfall has left the ground extremely saturated, NWS said, which means that not all the water is able to seep into the ground. Because of this, trees can fall with little or no wind. A tree fell near the County Liquor Store at 300 North Washington Street in downtown Rockville Sunday night, although a local employee said there were no injuries or damage to the store.
NWS forecasts show a brief respite from rainfall for The County from Thursday to Sunday, but rain could return to the area as early as Monday morning.
Lex Roland contributed to this report.