- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

Flooding from torrential storms this week was blamed for the deaths of at least 12 persons in the Mid-Atlantic region, prompted state-of-emergency declarations in Virginia and the District and forced large-scale evacuations throughout the area yesterday.

In Wilkes-Barre, Pa., as many as 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes as the Susquehanna River threatened to breach its 41-foot levees.

Thousands more were ordered to evacuate in New Jersey, New York and Montgomery County, Md., where more than 2,000 residents were forced from their homes near Lake Needwood, which threatened to breach an earthen dam.

Yesterday’s clear, sun-filled skies brought some respite from the monsoonlike torrents that had deluged the region with more than a foot of rainfall since Friday.

Still, authorities in Frederick County, Md., reported yesterday that three persons who just had been rescued from a rain-swollen creek died when they were swept from the bed of a pickup truck late Tuesday.

Jesse R. Haulsee, 24; his wife Angelia, 29; and a family friend identified as Eric C. Zepp, 19, all of Myersville, were killed on Maryland Route 19 along Middle Creek on Tuesday, Frederick County authorities said.

Meanwhile, authorities in Frederick and Carroll counties were searching for two teenagers who went missing Tuesday night in Keymar, which lies near the line separating the two counties.

The parents of Thomas Plunkard, 16, and Michael White, 14, reported them missing late Tuesday. The boys had said they were going to Little Pipe Creek near Route 194, where officials found a bicycle and some clothing, a Maryland State Police spokesman said.

In Alleghany County, Va., a 100-person search team yesterday found the body of an 8-year-old girl who was swept away Tuesday in a flooded creek.

Nikki Godbold was found about 1:30 p.m. just over a mile from where she disappeared in Dunlap Creek, Dunlap Fire Chief Bobby Griffith said.

The girl had been playing on her grandparents’ property Tuesday afternoon when she slipped into a deep ditch that feeds into the creek, said Maj. Greg Crowder of the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Department.

Elsewhere, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine declared a state of emergency in their jurisdictions.

Mr. Williams made the declaration late Tuesday, enabling him to request federal assistance from the D.C. National Guard, acquire emergency supplies and provide property owners with financial assistance.

By yesterday afternoon, he had rescinded the state of emergency but said he would continue to monitor the situation and could reinstate his declaration.

“We were concerned that another four to six inches of rain [Tuesday] night could have made an already bad situation truly scary,” Mr. Williams said. “Fortunately, and unexpectedly, the weather took a turn for the better.”

Officials with the District Department of Transportation yesterday said that all roads have been reopened and that most traffic lights are working.

However, several museums and federal buildings remained closed yesterday because of flooding and power outages, including the Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History and the Internal Revenue Service building.

Jim Lee, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Silver Spring office, said scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected today but will not bring more of the torrential downpours, thus keeping most of the region’s waterways at safe levels.

“The storms definitely won’t be of the [magnitude] of the last few days,” Mr. Lee said. “The worst of the rainfall has passed.”

Before the storm system moved out, hurricane-level rainfall was dumped on much of the metropolitan region. Areas such as Herndon received more than 12 inches of rain.

“During one 24-hour period, Hyattsville received 10 inches,” Mr. Lee said. “The four-day total at [Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport] was 12.11 inches. These are totals that happen about once every 300 years.”

Mr. Kaine yesterday declared a statewide emergency in Virginia. The state’s Department of Emergency Management is working with local governments to assess damage in the affected areas, officials said.

The Virginia Department of Transportation reported 146 roads closed yesterday afternoon, down from 225 in the morning. The number of closures has fluctuated as river and stream levels continue to rise from floodwaters moving downstream, officials said.

Chuck Gischlar, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said all but three of more than 30 roads and highways statewide that were shut down have been reopened.

He warned for motorists to watch for downed trees because of the saturated ground.

“The ground is so soft at this point, all it takes is a little breeze to bring some of these trees down,” Mr. Gischlar said.

Mr. Lee said the storms’ damage could have been worse, if not for the drought that gripped the region before the rains fell.

“The ground was like a dry sponge” and absorbed much of the water before it ran off, he said.

Arlo Wagner contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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