Susquehanna River falls, residents return

U.S. Geological Survey

The Susquehanna River dropped back below flood stage Monday afternoon and residents of Port Deposit and Havre de Grace were busy trying to get to their homes and businesses to clean up.

Jeff Harris, owner of Starbird Canvas in Havre de Grace, found about two feet of water flooding the store when he returned.

"There's mud everywhere," Harris said. "The whole marina is covered in mud. … If this was my primary shop, it would be about two weeks before I'd be able to work again, and that would have a significant impact on my income."

Luckily, Harris runs another shop from his home in Cecil County. He'll continue to clean up in the coming weeks and see what happens after that. The Havre de Grace property has flood insurance but Harris is considering moving for financial reasons.

At the Conowingo Dam, Exelon Hydro reported that just 13 crest gates were open at 2 p.m., down from a peak of 44 gates last week. Dam employees worked to restart the hydroelectric generators, shut down during the flood due to heavy debris at the intakes.

"All indications show [the river] trending downward," said Exelon spokesman Bob Judge. The crest at Marietta, Pa., above the dam, was 58.16 feet, reached at 9 a.m. Friday.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that water levels in the tail race below the dam had fallen below the "action" stage of 21.5 feet. Flood stage is 23.5 feet. The river levels crested on Friday at 32.41 feet.

Both measurements — at Marietta and in the tail race — were the third-highest on record since the dam's construction in the 1920s.

Port Deposit "will see no further impact from flooding with the current number of open crest gates," Exelon reported.

At Port Deposit, intensive efforts remain in place to clean up the damage left by days of flooding. Emergency services crews from all over the state and even from Pennsylvania have been working diligently to remove inches of silt and mud full of potentially hazardous materials from the streets.

The leftover silt was, "just pure gunk," state Sen. Nancy Jacobs said. "It was awful and it smelled."

Jacobs praised officials and cleanup crews, saying their efficient work made it seem as though floods of this magnitude were nothing out of the ordinary.

"They were right on top of things," she said of the crews. "They handled it just beautifully."

The cleanup will continue for at least the next few days. Although about two-thirds of evacuated residents have been allowed back into their homes, the rest may have to wait as long as Wednesday before they can return.

Back in Havre de Grace, the floodwaters were gone and the town got back to business.

"Everything in the Havre de Grace area is pretty much back to normal," said Harford County spokesman Robert B. Thomas. "The Fire Department and city officials worked very closely together to clear the streets of debris and make them passable. The water has pretty much receded, and by Saturday evening, 80 percent of the folks that had lost power had had it restored."

He added, "If you went to Havre de Grace today, you wouldn't believe it was the same place as [last] Thursday." By law, the state of emergency declared in the town last Thursday will remain in place for a week.

Exelon said the Fisherman's Park, just below the dam, will remain closed until flood damage can be assessed, repairs are completed and it is safe for visitors.

Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Baughman contributed to this article.

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

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