Conowingo Dam Flood Gates are Open
When The Rain Comes
The Mid-Atlantic saw record rainfall in July 2018. Most of that rain came down over a 5-day period as a result of tropical moisture moving up from the Bahamas. As the storms left Maryland, they continued north into Pennsylvania, where they continued their deluge.
The Susquehanna River, the longest river on the east coast, is formed from two branches – one in western PA, the other near Cooperstown, NY. The watershed drains 27,500 square miles, eventually emptying into the north end of the Chesapeake Bay. On its way into Maryland, all that water passes through the Conowingo Dam and Hydroelectric Plant.
Ask any Maryland motorcycle rider, and they will probably tell you that they have ridden on Rt. 1, crossing the river along the top of the dam from Darlington in Harford County to Conowingo in Cecil County. It’s a scenic ride, and chances are you’ll see eagles flying around the dam. On any given Sunday during riding season, you can find bikers gathering at the Union Hotel not far from the dam. The lot is usually packed and the overflow often winds up a few miles south at a dock bar in Port Deposit.
Port Deposit is a small town nestled on the eastern bank of the Susquehanna – a mere five miles downstream from the dam. The dam has flood gates that can be opened and closed as necessary to manage the water level behind the dam. Obviously, more open gates mean more water coming down the river.
In 2011, Tropical Storm Lee left behind enough water that 44 of the 53 flood gates had to be opened. This led to flooding and a mandatory evacuation of Port Deposit.
As of this writing, at least 20 flood gates were open. The town was under a voluntary evacuation. Officials were estimating that another 4 to 7 gates would have to be opened within the next 24 hours. We will update this post as this story develops.