23 homes evacuated in Clear Spring due to rapid rainfall

(WJLA) - The rapid rainfall this week in the D.C. area has many residents and businesses still digging out and cleaning up from the flooding.

In Berwyn Heights, residents are confused about who is responsible for the flooding that damaged homes.

A few residents thought the WSSC might help. Mary Smith was among those who got a letter from the WSSC, apologizing for the inconvenience.

"We're going around in circles," Smith says. "WSSC in the letter said it was due to a sewer backup. I guess they did admit it, but how can they take it back now? I don't know."

But a WSSC spokesperson now says the flooding wasn't from a sanitary sewer and thus, is not their responsibility:

Berwyn Heights Mayor Chaye Calvo says the floodwaters were actually piped in here, underground via the storm-sewer system, from higher level neighborhoods:

"We've had all kinds of people pointing fingers," says Gina Robson, a Berwyn Heights resident. "I can tell you the storm drains in front of our house worked, but the rest of them didn't."

As much as eight inches of rapid rainfall overwhelmed the town of Clear Spring, leading to the evacuation of 23 homes. Twenty people were also rescued from the rising waters.

Holding her newborn son, Mary Drury celebrated her 24th birthday today by counting her blessings:

"I looked out the window and couldn't believe how high the water was. And everything was floating away: furniture, bikes, clothes. I've never seen anything like it in 24 years."

The clerk at city hall confirmed the last major flood to hit the town was in 1947. The town's main street, where most of the evacuations and rescues took place, has built-in gutters to accommodate water flow. But Thursday night's deluge caught everyone off-guard.

"I was giving my daughter a bath when I looked out the window and water was up to my front door. We were trapped," said Paul Brooks.
Firefighters rescued Brooks and daughter Ava from their second story window.

"Letting my daughter go in to the firefighters hands was the scariest thing I've ever done," he said with a quivering lip.

Jessica Dunn's sons were home alone after their last day of school ended early. They videotaped the rising waters outside their windows. When they called their mother at work, she told them to place towels against the main floor doors and hunker down on the second floor.

"I was pretty panicky. I told the boys I would be home in a few minutes. It took two hours. I was stuck on the bottom of the mountain."

The Dunn's basement flooded several feet, washing away their gas tank, a water heater, and other heavy appliances. One of those tanks punched a hole through the ceiling into the living room floor. Part of the driveway washed away; the remaining asphalt rippled "like small volcanoes" according to 8 year old Cash Dunn.

But at least the Dunns can still live at home. The Bivens family, a quarter mile away, lost all of their belongings. Floodwaters lifted their car, knocked it into their home, before depositing the damaged vehicle in their back yard. Friends of the Bevins set up a GoFundMe account to assist them.

None of the families we interviewed had flood insurance, as the town sits atop a running stream. Residents are hopeful FEMA will come to their rescue, just as the Red Cross and more than a dozen county and state agencies have done since the emergency began.

"I call this 'Hometown USA' when we all come together like this," said Washington County Chief of Emergency Services John Bentley. "These people are resourceful. They don't stand around. They help each other. But they need help too."