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Low-Lying Areas Reopen as Patuxent Returns to Manageable Level

"Things went pretty smoothly" as the City of Laurel responded to Thursday's flooding, a spokesman said.

Update, Feb. 1: City of Laurel spokesman Pete Piringer said "things went pretty smoothly" Thursday as police, public works crews, and other emergency responders worked to limit the risk posed by flooding on the Patuxent River.

Despite some leftover mud and debris, the MARC commuter lot at the Laurel train station reopened Friday morning after having been closed Thursday.

Riverfront Park was set to reopen Friday morning as well.

Update, 7:22 p.m.: City of Laurel officials say the Patuxent River is starting to recede in the area after surging significantly on Thursday.

The rise in the river's level was caused by the release of water from the T. Howard Duckett Dam made necessary by last night's heavy rains.

According to a statement from Mayor Craig Moe, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission informed Laurel officials late Thursday that the water level at the dam had stabilized.

Further releases are expected in the coming days, but at a pace which will keep the river from spilling over onto its banks.

Moe said that the civil emergency he had declared earlier in the day would expire at 9 p.m. Laurel's emergency operations center is also set to close at 7:30 p.m.

Riverfront Park and the Laurel train station commuter lot by Lafayette Avenue will both remain closed overnight as a precaution. Moe said city officials would monitor the water level periodicially and make a decision Friday morning about the reopening of either location.

Update, 5:27 p.m.: The water level at Riverfront Park appears to have gone up by about two feet since 2:30 p.m., submerging much of the asphalt path that runs along the river.

Main Street and 7th Street (MD-216) are seeing heavy traffic at this hour as commuters avoid the closed southbound U.S. Route 1 bridge over the Patuxent.

Update, 3:40 p.m.: City of Laurel Spokesman Pete Piringer tells Patch that "two to three thousand" people are expected to be impacted by the evacuations, roadblocks, and other precautions taken by city officials around Thursday's flooding.

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Piringer also said that water levels are continuing to rise at this hour, and that the river has encroached on several homes close to the Patuxent River. 

A number of cars parked in the MTA lot near the Laurel train station were also towed Thursday afternoon, Piringer said, as drivers had disregarded barricades set up in anticipation of possible flooding.

Mayor Craig Moe has been in regular contact with county and local officials from around the area, some of whom have offered the city additional support. 

Emergency personnel continue to monitor roads, bridges, and other areas close to the river, Piringer said. Department of Public Works personnel are also bringing in portable lights to prepare for the evening.

Piringer said that while flooding was affected a significant stretch of the Patuxent, "no one has the environment like we do here" as far as population density near the river.

Update, 2:45 p.m.: City officials continue to monitor the Patuxent River and area flooding.

According to the latest report from the National Weather Service's Hydrologic Prediction Service, the water in the river has risen to 12 feet. This is after WSSC released water from two are dams.

Although officials suggested residents and businesses evacuate in downtown Laurel, many businesses remained open throughout the afternoon.

The water level is just touching the bottom of the southbound bridge on Route 1 near Washington Boulevard.

Although officials have not reported any rescues in the city of Laurel, two people were rescued off Route 198 in Anne Arundel County and police reported one death when a homeless woman was found dead in Maryland City.

Update, 2:15 p.m.: Officials have reopened Route 198 at 197, according to WTOP.

However, area parks like Riverfront Park are closed and residents are dealing with flooding in their backyards like homes off Avondale Street in Laurel.

Update, 1:44 p.m.: Police have barricaded roadways throughout downtown Laurel near Washington Boulevard.

The water is only to the bottom of the southbound bridge, but officials say the water could rise still.

Although many residents and business owners in the path of the flooding were advised to evacuate, many businesses in downtown Laurel remain open.

Update, 1:30 p.m.: Several roads have been closed as city of Laurel public works and police officials help residents and business owners evacuate, after Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission released water from two dams near Laurel.

According to Pete Piringer, spokesman for the city of Laurel, a flood warning is in effect for Howard, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties due to the flooding of the Patuxent River.

Evacuations have been completed on the northern side of Main Street toward Howard County, Piringer said, and 197, 198 and a bridge Route 1 near the Howard-Prince George's county line remain closed. Traffic is being rerouted.

The city is working with the Red Cross and MEMA, opening its emergency operations center and a shelter at Robert J. DiPietro Community Center (7901 Cypress St.).

Update, 1:02 p.m.: Tracee Wilkins from NBCWashington has reported the swift water rescue of two people on Route 198 in Anne Arundel County. According to city officials it was near the racetrack.

The Route 1 bridge is closed at Howard County and Prince George's County line, according to Pete Piringer, spokesman for the city of Laurel.

Update, 12:44 p.m.: WSSC is reporting that it has released water from two dams near the city of Laurel to relieve pressure from excessive rainfall.

Water was released from both the Brighton Dam in Brookeville and the T. Howard Duckett Dam in Laurel, according to a press release from WSSC.

According to WSSC, the amount of rainfall overnight was more than double what was expected. Normally the Patuxent River is 2.4 feet when it enters the Triadelphia Reservoir, but the river reached 10.5 feet earlier today.

The commission is monitoring the level of the Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge reservoirs to determine when it should release more water and how much.

Original Post, 12:30 p.m.: City of Laurel officials declared a municipal civil emergency Thursday morning and are advising evacuations from the downtown area as the swelling Patuxent River threatens to cause significant flooding.

The move comes as the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission plans to release water upstream from the T. Howard Duckett Dam in the wake of heavy overnight rains.

"Projected releases from the Duckett Dam on the Patuxent River have increased and flooding will occur along the Patuxent River from I-95 near Laurel downstream," according to a statement from city officials.

Acting on an executive order from Mayor Craig A. Moe, authorities are recommending evacuations of all residences and businesses from Main Street north to the Patuxent River.

City spokesman Pete Piringer said people in the possible flood zone "should take action now to protect their life and property."

Laurel has opened its Emergency Operations Center, and the city is running an evacuation center at Robert J. DiPietro Community Center (7901 Cypress St.).

The intersection of MD-197 and MD-198 has also been closed due to high water. Intermittent power outages were reported around the city Thursday morning, Piringer said.

Patch will have more information on this story as it becomes available.

Concerned Citizen of Laurel January 31, 2013 at 09:59 PM
Does the City have any communication with WSSC prior to the release of water or does WSSC just do what it wants? Any reason when radar showed a large amount of rain moving into the area last night, why wouldn't WSSC begin to open a few gates and release water slowly instead of just letting it RIP when levels get to high? This isnt the first time that they have done this with Next to None notice! The City should demand answers and maybe revenue from WSSC for the burden it puts on the City and its residents.
Concerned Citizen of Laurel January 31, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Just watched the WUSA 5PM news and the Mayor, City Council and the residents of Laurel should DEMAND public hearings with WSSC on its handling of water release and just plain POOR management!
Polly February 01, 2013 at 11:41 AM
I was traveling on 95 yesterday and saw the dam live. Although what caused it to be open is not good the site was one to behold. It really was amazing to see.

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