Patuxent River Again Threatens Parts of Laurel

LAUREL, Md (WUSA9) -- The coming downpour has people here keeping a really close eye on the Patuxent River.

The river jumped its banks, flooded businesses, and nearly flooded homes just a couple of weeks ago.

The city has already closed Riverfront park... The Patuxent is already high. Duckett Dam is just upstream, and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission is already dumping water ahead of the rain.

Nearly 42 million gallons of water an hour rolling over the dam and down into the river. The WSSC says it's trying to avoid a repeat of the disaster of just a couple of weeks ago, when a leak in a dam joint led the water company to open all seven gates, contributing to a flood that destroyed 18 cars and nearly flooded a hotel.

"I am furious. I don't have a problem when you have a catastrophe no one can control. But the WSSC is asleep at the switch," says car dealer Fred Frederick. He says the flood two weeks ago cost him close to half a million dollars in flooded cars and equipment.

The water company says it warned Laurel as quickly as possible, but that it was an emergency situation, and the choice was releasing the water, or risking a dam that provides drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people.

But Teresa Bennett is taking the car dealer's side. She had her 2008 minivan in the shop when the last flood hit, and it was destroyed. has to buy a new car after the flood destroyed her 2008 minivan. "I'm quite mad with the water company for not giving me enough notice so they could move my vehicle," she said, while out test driving a replacement.

When it starts to rain, the WSSC actually plans to close the dam gate that's open now. It doesn't want to add even more water to the river if the rain is already causing trouble. But the water company also says that if the Rocky Gorge reservoir gets too high, it will have to open a floodgate again.

"The priority for us and for the people of this region is to preserve that dam at all costs," says spokesman Jim Neustadt.

The city of Laurel is also worried about big logs, driftwood and more debris that the last storm blew down the river. It's all piled up now against the Rt. 1 bridge over the Patuxent. That could clog the flow and send water once again roaring over the road to threaten homes and businesses.

Mayor Craig Moe says the city is ready to evacuate people if it comes to that. City workers will help police and firefighters knock on doors and call people who might be in danger.

The WSSC says it doesn't anticipate any problems tonight or tomorrow. But it says it has to prepare for the possibility.

Stay tuned to wusa9, to our weather alerts, and, and we will let you know if there is any trouble.


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