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Road collapse leads to closures following flooding in Washington County, Maryland

A road collapse led to street closures in Washington County, Md. Monday, May 21, 2018 (Rich Reeve, ABC7)

Glen Morrison was still trying to take it all in.

Those rains that had pummeled Washington County for the past eight days had been one thing.

But to see Chestnut Grove Road, in the hamlet of Dargan, just suddenly… end, only yards from his house?

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Morrison recalls. “I more or less stood right there and watched the road fall in, you know?”

Left behind, a 30-to-40 foot-wide gap, filled with rocks, asphalt, and water.

A road to nowhere.

“I was amazed and blown away at the impact that water can have on a road,” said Brittany Higgins, a Washington County Government spokesperson. “Just can cause it to wash away like that.”

Authorities say last week’s drenching storms caused $4 million dollars in damage, although they say that number could rise to $10 million.

Places like Dargan, about 20 miles south of Hagerstown, took the brunt of it.

“What we know is about 7.6 inches of rain fell in a one-to-two hour time frame,” said David Hays, Washington County’s director of emergency services. “Taking out the shoulders of the road, undercutting the road and causing total or partial collapses of a multitude of roadways.”

Hays says about half of area roads show “significant” damage.

About 30 percent are now out of service.

“The water starts to move dirt and shale, which is the substructure for any kind of roadway or bridge,” Hays explained. “It ultimately erodes enough of that so it causes some type of collapse.”

The damage is easy to see.

Along Mt. Lock Canal Road in Sharpsburg, the floodwaters have dug several-foot deep canals along the roadside- a hazard to anyone who drifts off the asphalt, even just a few inches.

On Valley Road in Rohrersville, churning waters ripped up the asphalt attached to small bridge, and tossed and twisted guardrails as if they were made of rubber.

But that’s just part of it.

In this part of the county, lose a bridge or a section of road to flooding, and you have a big problem: many washed-out streets are the only way in or out of some neighborhoods.

“It’s a long way around,” said James Martz, a Dargan resident. “Only one way out… back that way to Sharpsburg.”

That means residents are recalculating their commutes, trying to navigate to avoid the pitfalls of a sudden closed road.

“For anyone who is leaving, especially working, it’s really an inconvenience,” said Jim Breeden, a neighbor of Martz’s. “From this point right here, it’s ten miles to go around. There are people who you figure that’s another gallon of gas.”

“We’ve had one lady that talked about a detour of 25 miles, just to get her mail,” Hays said.

Authorities say they’re already working around the clock to get repairs underway.

But it’s a job that could take weeks to complete, after a rainy spell that no one around here will likely forget anytime soon.

“That water’s never been that high, and I’ve been here for 16 years,” Morrison said.


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