Hancock escapes Ida’s wrath as low Potomac handles flow

by Geoff Fox

What was supposed to be a major flooding event in the Hancock area turned out to be a manageable heavy rain as the majority of the remnants of Hurricane Ida caused flooding and damage east of Washington County.

Hurricane Ida caused flooding and damage to the Gulf Coast last week and made her way up through the eastern United States with powerful storms dropping inches of rain along the way.

Forecasts prior to the remnants reaching the Hancock area had the Potomac River near flood stage and creeks and streams overflowing their banks.

But on Tuesday, little to no rain until the overnight hours followed a brief downpour in the afternoon.

Those rains continued until the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday, September 1.

After the rain, the water was a torrent as it flowed over the dam on Little Tonoloway Creek in Widmeyer Park. By the next morning, the water was back within its banks and flowing over the boulders as normal. Earlier in the week, the rocks below the small dam had been somewhat dry.

The Potomac River on Wednesday evening wasn’t showing much activity as it just touched the bottom of the boat ramp.
On Thursday morning, it had risen to within a few feet of the pavement of the parking area at the C&O Canal.

According to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, the river crested at 17.5 feet at 1 p.m. on Thursday, September 2. Only 24 hours earlier, the river was at four feet.

On Thursday morning, debris, mainly trees and limbs, was rushing by Hancock in the river.

Wednesday evening, a small stream ran down Old Rt. 40 near its intersection with Main Street.

Mayor Tim Smith said the town was prepared for the rain as crews went around the day before making sure drains and culverts were clear and debris was removed so water could run off easier.

He said there was a focus on the Widmeyer Park to make sure the water from Little Tonoloway didn’t overflow the banks, and if the need to keep things tied down.

There was no flooding in the park as the creek stayed within its banks and only small pools of water formed under some of the playground equipment.

Overall, he said, the town was in “good shape” after the rain.

He added if there had been another day of rain, then there could have been flooding in Hancock.

A number of roads in Washington County were closed due to flooding. Kemps Mill Road from the Mill to Snug Harbor, Licking Creek Road from Keefer Road to the dead end, Independence Road from Rt. 40 to the FOP Lodge, Wishard Road, Pectonville Road at Licking Creek Road, and Cresspond Road.

Washington County officials said the roadways were closed due to the heavy rain that resulted in flooded roadways, fallen trees and debris, as well as downed traffic signs, signal failures, power outages, and downed power lines.