Laurel residents return home after evacuation

WASHINGTON — More than 100 Laurel, Md., residents can return to their homes Thursday morning after high waters caused evacuations for part of the city Wednesday evening.

Many homes in Laurel, Md., were evacuated Wednesday evening after all seven gates of the Duckett Dam were opened to relieve water pressure from the rain that had pelted the area over the past few days. The evacuation order was lifted at 8 a.m. Thursday after WSSC closed the gates at the dam.

Officials closed Main Street at Lafayette because of the high water that came when the dam’s gates opened. Evacuations were in place for several hundred residents from Main Street north to the Patuxent River.

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission spokesperson Lyn Riggins says that the dam was opened because of the high level of water in the Rocky Gorge Reservoir.

“I can’t stress enough that there is not a crack in the dam,” Riggins says. “The structural integrity of the Duckett Dam is fine.”

The rain, Riggins says, caused the level of the reservoir to rise over a construction joint in the dam.

“Water is coming through a joint in the dam — it’s not a crack; it’s a joint,” Riggins says.

“We need to get the level of the reservoir down so that the water level is below that joint. It’s eroding the soil around a buttress that supports the dam,” Riggins says.

Riggins says it is WSSC’s obligation to protect the integrity of that dam.

Laurel Mayor Craig Moe says the city has been coordinating with WSSC.

“I’ve never seen this amount of water released, and I’ve been in Laurel for a long time,” Moe said on WTOP Thursday morning.

Moe says the release of water has caused problems around the city — especially its riverfront.

“I hope this is the worst of it,” he says.

Businesses impacted by the flood need to have their facilities inspected before they can reopen. The number to call is 302-725-5300 x2238.

The Robert DiPietro Community Center was open to shelter those who need to evacuate their homes. The Red Cross is on hand to help as well.

Route 1 will remain closed until the water recedes, a Laurel spokesperson said.

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