People across Frederick County reported seeing what appeared to be flash flooding conditions as an intense storm system rolled into the region on Tuesday evening, with storm drains overwhelmed in the deluge, cars submerged in rushing streams and buildings surging with rainwater.
A flood warning was put in place until 11:45 p.m. as some roads were overtaken by water and first responders were called to numerous water rescues. According to the National Weather Service, 2.3 inches of rain was reported at Frederick Municipal Airport on Tuesday. A weather spotter in Petersville, however, reported a much higher total — about 6.7 inches — around 9 p.m. Excessive runoff from heavy rainfall was causing flooding of small creeks and streams, streets and other low-lying spots.
In a five-hour time period, Frederick County Emergency Communications Center received more than 300 calls to 9-1-1. More than 60 rescues were made by fire and rescue personnel and law enforcement for people stranded in high water.
After two days of rainstorms, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch into Wednesday morning. The Frederick Police Department and other emergency services encouraged residents to stay indoors for the duration of the storm.
The weather service will continue to evaluate flood warnings and watches, said Isha Renta, a meteorologist at the Sterling, Virginia, office. The weather service has forecast a chance of rain and continued afternoon thunderstorms through Friday.
“Right now the main concern that we have, based on our forecast, is for Thursday, with plenty of rainfall in the area,” Renta said.
Because the ground is saturated, flooding concerns are heightened, she said.
Renta said the weather has been caused by a stalled front that’s moving north and south over the region that continues to trigger the afternoon storms.
“It’s going to be stalling over us for the next few days,” Renta said.
On Tuesday, the primary reports from weather spotters in the county were about floodwaters and road closings. Renta expected to know more about other damage such as downed trees and other debris on Wednesday.
Tom Clingman, chief development officer of the YMCA of Frederick County, said he saw cars nearly completely submerged in water in some of the city’s alleys.
Clingman said after the more than a million dollars’ worth of damage the September 2015 storm caused the YMCA building when 12 feet of floodwater crashed through the lower level of the building, the organization implemented many preventive measures. But they were overwhelmed on Tuesday night.
“We were told that was a 100-year storm,” the development officer said around 9 p.m. “Obviously, it’s less than three years later and we are having another one. It’s not as bad as 2015 at the moment, but we don’t know how it will shake out.”
Floodwaters were more than 2 feet deep on North Market Street in Frederick near the YMCA around 8:45 p.m. A photo on social media showed the building’s entire first floor flooded, including the pool. The flood planks that were installed after the 2015 storm held back about 3½ feet of water, according to Clingman.
Between six and 12 cars in the YMCA parking lot were submerged in water up to their door handles, and Clingman estimated the nonprofit likely lost four buses to the flooding. A group of people waiting to be picked up from swim team practice and dance class sheltered on the second floor of the building until they could be safely picked up.
The YMCA will be closed on Wednesday, Clingman said, and officials will decide when it can open again after assessing the damage. The Early Learning Center was flooded with 6 to 8 inches of water, and Clingman said the organization was working on finding a temporary space for childcare on Wednesday.
Germantown-based WeatherBug tweeted that one of the company’s employees picked up a 2½-inch chunk of hail near U.S. 15 and West Patrick Street around 7:30 p.m. Jefferson also experienced large amounts of hail, according to resident Sheri White.
Around 8 p.m., the rain was heavy enough to overwhelm a storm drain just outside the rear entrance to the William R. Talley Recreation Center in Frederick, water started to flow beneath the back doors and flood the lower-level fitness center lobby. As hail briefly hit the recreation center’s windows, half a dozen clients weighed the decision to wait for the storm to possibly break or brave the elements.
Emergency vehicles circled the Baker Park area. Police and fire and rescue personnel appeared to either direct or willfully ignore cars traveling the wrong direction on the ordinarily one-way North Bentz Street.
Several roads in the county were closed by high floodwaters, and debris from the storm closed Md. 180 at Wye Creek Drive.
Scattered power failures were reported in Frederick County by the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. At 9:30 p.m., 150 customers in the county were without power.
News-Post staffers Danielle E. Gaines, Kate Masters, Cameron Dodd and Geordie Wilson and contributed to this report.