Responsible for giving residents a professional heads-up on potentially harsh weather conditions, meteorologists were spot-on when they warned that heavy rainfall from what was left of Hurricane Ida would cause widespread flash flooding across the Cumberland area.
They absolutely nailed it, with their projected precipitation total almost down to the inch.
The prediction-fulfilling deluge delayed traffic, fueled anxiety and ended up causing extensive property damage, but the situation could have been more dire and the result much worse. Unlike other places in the Northeast, no deaths or injuries were reported locally as a result of the storm, for which we should be very thankful. Homes, businesses and roads can be restored or repaired, but fatalities are permanent.
Mother Nature is in control, but we are fortunate to have in place an emergency response system that includes teams of trained professionals and volunteers, including water rescue teams, ready to spring into action when disaster strikes.
Times-News cascade coverage included photos and videos, and many people shared on social media what they encountered and their cellphones recorded.
Like other curious folks, we parked alongside the flood control channel built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decades ago as daylight began to fade in The Narrows Wednesday, watching as a tributary-swollen Wills Creek carried an armada of flotsam, including railroad ties, trash and tree trunks toward its junction with the Potomac River.
There was no way for onlookers to accurately measure its depth, but the churning brown water seemed to be within six feet of the top of the sloped concrete course. The velocity with which it passed and the water’s raw, earthy smell shocked the senses.
Weather watchers said nothing out of the ordinary occurred — just nearly six inches of rain descending in a short amount of time.
Like other municipalities situated near the base of foothills and mountains, the Queen City was badly flooded numerous times in the past, most notably the costly St. Patrick’s Day Flood of 1936 that eventually led to construction of the flood control system.
Flooding in January 1996 wreaked widespread havoc and would have decimated downtown Cumberland had it not been for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ handiwork. The design has proved itself invaluable once more.