- Associated Press - Thursday, January 31, 2013

A woman apparently drowned as rains flooded a homeless camp and dam gates were opened on swollen Patuxent River reservoirs, prompting the evacuation of hundreds Thursday.

Anne Arundel County police said the unidentified person died in the homeless camp in Maryland City. The body was found about 11:25 a.m. Thursday in a wooded area at Route 198 and Laurel Racetrack Road where homeless people live in tents. The death apparently occurred before dams were opened on the Patuxent River, Lt. T.J. Smith said.

Police said a 911 call was received about a body floating in the water. Firefighters were already on the scene and retrieved the body from the rising waters. Authorities say a passer-by told the woman to leave the area between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Wednesday because it was not safe.

The victim, believed to be homeless, has not been identified.

Ernest Moran, who lives in the camp, said about 15 people live in tents at the site and he escaped the rising waters with only his dog and a knapsack.

“It was a swamp” when he woke up Thursday morning, Mr. Moran said, adding he expected it to get worse as water from the dams reached the area.

Up to 6 inches of rain fell overnight in some areas along the Patuxent River, the National Weather Service said, noting the dam releases will likely cause higher water levels than the area has seen in many years.

Laurel city spokesman Pete Piringer said the evacuations affected several hundred people in the city’s historic district.

“As long as I’ve lived in Laurel — 11 years — I’ve never seen it like this,” said Courtney Finney, as she watched floodwaters rise to the base of an overpass on southbound U.S. 1, which was closed to traffic.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said the heavier than expected rainfall prompted it to release water from the Brighton Dam in Brookeville and the Duckett Dam in Laurel. The water utility says rainfall was more than double what was expected in some areas.

Downed trees, meanwhile, halted service on MARC’s Brunswick line, and disruptions were expected to continue through the afternoon rush hour.

MARC spokesman Terry Owens said three trains carrying about 800 people were affected Thursday morning by the downed trees near Washington Grove. Passengers were taken back to Gaithersburg, where they were bused to the Shady Grove Metro station.

The National Weather Service also warned of minor to moderate flooding along two rivers in Frederick County. The agency reported minor flooding Thursday morning along the Monocacy River. The weather service said the river was expected to crest at 17.5 feet by early Thursday evening at the Interstate 70 crossing near Frederick. The flood stage there is 16 feet. The predicted crest is considered moderate flooding.

The Weather Service also predicted minor flooding along the Potomac River at Point of Rocks, where it said the river was expected to crest at 17.3 feet there by Saturday morning. Flood stage at Point of Rocks is 16 feet.

The storms also left thousands without power in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Delmarva Power reported about 2,000 customers without power Thursday morning, down from a peak of about 7,800.

AP writers Alex Dominguez and Kasey Jones contributed to this report from Baltimore.