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Hogan Administration Announces Statewide Response Efforts for Potential Conowingo Dam Impacts

Governor Urges Marylanders to Avoid Port Deposit

the Conowingo Dam

Photo via Jeff Long/WJZ

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (July 26, 2018) — Governor Larry Hogan has directed state agencies to work together to keep Marylanders safe and informed following continued flooding. Due to large amounts of rainfall, the Conowingo Dam has announced the opening of spill gates. Significant amounts of rain and water flow in the Susquehanna River have prompted this response.

Port Deposit Mayor, Wayne L. Tome Sr., has called for a voluntary evacuation in Port Deposit in Cecil County. Port Deposit officials had stated that those without transportation should report to the Town Hall for a shuttle. The Bainbridge Elementary School, located at 41 Preston Drive, Port Deposit, MD., will serve as a receiving center for residents without shelter options.

“Maryland state agencies are actively engaged and working around the clock to provide any support needed to Port Deposit and the areas surrounding the Conowingo Dam,” said Governor Hogan. “I urge all local residents to put safety first and heed all warnings from local officials. Our administration is committed to doing all that we can to ensure Marylanders remain safe and impacted communities are able to recover from this severe weather.”

State agencies are supporting the local response as this event unfolds. MEMA advises the public, especially those living in and around Port Deposit to be vigilant during this event, and to:

  • Put your safety first, avoid Port Deposit and any flooded areas
  • Heed all warnings from your local officials and if told to evacuate, do so immediately. Call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.
  • Never drive on a road if there is flood water. Turn Around. Don’t Drown!
  • Never drive around barricades. Local responders use them to safely direct traffic out of flooded areas.
  • Don’t forget about your pets and be sure to lock your home.
  • Discuss what to do in an evacuation with everyone in your family and
    know where you will go if an evacuation is called.
  • Assemble everything your family will need in advance if you must evacuate your home and select a safe meeting point.
  • Create a first aid kit that includes your family’s prescription medications, baby formula, special needs supplies, and documents, like passports, driver’s license and birth certificates (pack sanitation supplies and special items for babies, senior citizens or disabled family members).
  • Pack one change of clothes and shoes per person as well as one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
  • Write down the name of your insurance company, policy number and telephone number and keep it in a safe place.
  • Include an extra set of car keys, your credit cards, cash and/or traveler’s checks. Don’t forget your important emergency contact numbers.
  • Only return when officials say it is safe to do so.  You may be gone for some time but it’s for your safety.

The following actions have been taken by state agencies to respond to the ongoing event:

Maryland Emergency Management Agency

  • MEMA has increased the state’s response level in order to efficiently coordinate activities and has increased staffing levels at the State Emergency Operations Center.
  • MEMA is currently supporting Cecil and Harford Counties, while coordinating among state agencies to fulfill any requests from local jurisdictions.
  • MEMA has been facilitating weather calls with the National Weather Service and has been in frequent contact with local emergency managers, state agencies, and local partners to maintain situational awareness and coordination.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

  • Areas of Susquehanna State Park will be impacted by rising swells, including the park’s historic area and Lapidum Landing boat launch, which are particularly susceptible to flooding. Additionally, trails may be closed due to muddy conditions and woody debris.
  • The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will be conducting water sampling cruises today and through the weekend to monitor the Chesapeake Bay for nutrients, sediment and turbidity. Excess nutrients and sediments can degrade water quality, cause algal blooms, increase hypoxia levels and inhibit submerged aquatic vegetation growth.
  • The Maryland Natural Resources Police strongly recommends that commercial and recreational anglers, boaters and watermen avoid the Upper Chesapeake Bay due to elevated water flows and the danger of marine debris throughout the waterway. If you must navigate the Upper Bay, keep speeds to a minimum and remain vigilant for floating and submerged debris. Remove vessels from affected waterways if possible to do so safely and closely monitor docked or moored vessels, especially those on floating piers.
  • The Maryland Natural Resources Police is coordinating emergency response with Exelon Generation, Maryland Emergency Management Agency and Cecil and Harford counties. It has staged all-terrain vehicles, marine vessels and officers to assist in any needed emergency situation, including localized flooding.
  • The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has provided additional flexibility for commercial crabbers in the Upper Chesapeake Bay in response to recent severe flooding. Crabbers can remove their gear from waters north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge so it doesn’t get damaged by anticipated levels of marine debris. (The impact of elevated amounts of freshwater and associated runoff on marine life and submerged aquatic vegetation in the Chesapeake Bay remains unknown at this point).
  • The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Hydrographic Division stands ready to assist Exelon Generation in removing any hazardous marine debris that may pose a hazard to navigation downstream of Conowingo Dam.
  • The Huk Bassmaster Elite at Upper Chesapeake Bay fishing tournament, scheduled for this weekend in Harford County, has been canceled and postponed due to dangerous high flows. It will likely be rescheduled for later in the season.

Maryland Department of Environment

  • MDE’s Conowingo Clean Water Certification (issued April 27, 2018) requires the dam owner to finally start reducing the sediment and debris problem behind the dam to prevent risks to public safety and environmental health in situations exactly like this and to keep Bay cleanup progress on track.  The MDE certification is part of the Hogan Administration’s comprehensive and holistic strategy to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution, including trash and debris, behind the dam and up the river into Pennsylvania and New York, to protect Maryland waters, including the Chesapeake Bay.”
  • Department of Environment’s dam safety and emergency response divisions have been in communication with local jurisdictions to offer any technical assistance that might be needed.
  • The dam safety division has also been in contact with dam operators across the state to monitor their dams and notify the department of any deficiencies and to encourage them to activate their emergency action plans as needed.
  • Maryland Department of Environment’s water supply program contacted public water systems throughout the state to provide steps that the systems may take to better prepare for severe storms that may interfere with the operations of water systems.

Maryland Department of Transportation and State Highway Administration

  • District 4 (D4) is responsible for the west side of the Susquehanna down to Havre de Grace (Harford County side) plus the maintenance of US-1 across the dam.
  • The most viable evacuation routes for Havre De Grace would be from east to west, MD-763 to MD-155, Lewis Lane to US-40 and finally MD-7A to US-40.
  • Exelon has not contacted SHA to shut down US-1 at this point, but SHA is on standby should this change.
  • MD 222 is closed between US-1 and MD-276 just north of the Port Deposit Town Hall.
  • SHA is in communication with Cecil Emergency Management Service.
  • The detours in place now are MD 222 north of Port Deposit all the way to the dam is closed. Any additional closures on state roads not deemed necessary at this time. The detour in place is Route 1 to MD-276 to MD-275 to MD-222.
  • The districts have rotating shifts that consist of six people (total staff is about 35-40 people). The shop has dump trucks, signs, blockades and a plow truck to assist with debris pick up.
  • The local plan for the shop is to go to shift work after 4 pm today. They have a 30-40 people crew including administrative staff and maintenance.

Maryland State Police

  • A Maryland State Trooper has been assigned to the Cecil County Emergency Operations Center to monitor issues and be ready to provide any immediate assistance.
  • Coordinating efforts with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency as part of the state’s combined response to Cecil County.

Follow Cecil County Department of Emergency Services on Twitter: @CecilCountyDES or on Facebook: facebook.com/CecilCountyDES/

Our social media specialists will be monitoring the situation and will also be posting updated information as it becomes available. You can follow MEMA on Twitter
@MDMEMA or on Facebook at facebook.com/MDMEMA.


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