Cumberland Times-News

Local News

March 15, 2010

Floodwaters continue to pour from abandoned mine shaft

State expected to expedite Douglas Avenue repairs

CUMBERLAND — Douglas Avenue from state Route 36 in Lonaconing to the Garrett County line remained closed Monday due to flood water pouring from an abandoned mine site.

“It will be a couple days before the water recedes and until we can get back in there and assess the damage to the road. We will likely use an existing areawide contract to expedite any temporary repairs needed to Douglas Avenue,” said State Highway Adminstration spokesman Dave Buck.

A 50-foot-long, 14-foot-wide section of Douglas Avenue — also designated state Route 657 — was affected. Guardrails were pushed back there about three feet from the road’s edge by the unexpected water flow from the abandoned mine. The water continued to flow Monday afternoon from the old mine site to Douglas Avenue and across Beechwood Street into Koontz Run.

Water flowing from an abandoned mine site in Midland also caused landscaping and other damage to a Paradise Street residence. No injuries were reported at either location although there were reports of flooded basements, according to Dick DeVore, chief of Allegany County’s Emergency Management Division.

By Monday morning, area waterways continued to recede. The Potomac River at Wiley Ford measured at 10.20 feet at 10:30 a.m. and 9.84 feet by 1:30 p.m. The river crested slightly above flood stage at 17.5 feet at 11 p.m. on Saturday.

“Things are going down and the streams are getting back in their banks,” said Tim Thomas, local observer of the National Weather Service.

In another note, Buck said a $2.7 million stimulus project to improve Douglas Avenue is scheduled to begin in early April. The project will temporarily close the roadway where new guardrail and storm drains will be installed. The road will also be resurfaced and retaining walls will be constructed to widen the roadway.

Route 657 covers a half-mile section from the Garrett County line to the Allegany County line. The SHA reported 352 vehicles travel Douglas Avenue daily in both directions. Motorists wishing to access westbound Route 657 were forced to travel south along state Route 36 to state Route 935, Lower Georges Creek Road, to Bartlett Run Road to Michael Road to Russell Road to Westernport Road to Swamp Road to Route 657.

Eastbound motorists were being detoured Route 657 to Swamp Road to Westernport Road to Russell Road to Michael Road to Bartlett Run Road to state Route 935 to Route 36 back to Route 657.

The SHA said motorists should allow 30 minutes of travel time for the detour. Anyone with questions about traffic operations along roadway, or other state-numbered routes in Allegany County, may call the SHA District 6 office at (301) 729-8400 or toll-free at 1-800-760-7138.

The Douglas Avenue situation was being monitored Monday by emergency management, SHA and Bureau of Mines personnel aboard the Allegany County Mobile Emergency Operations Center bus. The command unit was brought to the Good Will Volunteer Fire Company station early Sunday evening. It was utilized at the Frostburg Volunteer Fire Company station on East Main Street through the weekend in anticipation of severe flooding.

Some 25 hours after water began bursting from the mine site, DeVore said the flooding along Douglas Avenue was “a unique situation.”

“This was completely unexpected. A Bureau of Mines official said he has been here 20 years and there have been eight mines blow out in that time. Here we had two in one day,” said DeVore, who spent day after day since the middle of last week planning for possible flooding emergencies.

He said representatives of various agencies — including the town of Lonaconing — met Monday afternoon to discuss the situation. “We are looking for solutions. The fact of the matter is, potentially, there could be other similar incidents. But we’re looking at dry weather over the next couple days and that will help.”

DeVore had no idea how much water had flowed from the mine although at times the water flow seemed to be greater than that of an open fire hydrant.

Cumberland received 1.8 inches of rain in the last three days. The National Weather Service had predicted rainfall of 4-5 inches.

Throughout the weekend, Allegany County’s 911 center fielded more than 500 calls as residents coped with water-related problems.

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