BERLIN — Yesterday’s torrential downpours across the region only exacerbated an already dicey flooding problem in Berlin as streets flooded and water rose well past the comfort level in some neighborhoods.
In late August, a historic storm ravaged Berlin, flooding streets, washing cars off the roadway and depositing several feet of water in homes in some neighborhoods. Just two days later, Berlin officials addressed concerns of residents about the town’s chronic flooding problems and promising there was a long-range plan in place to address the issue.
On Thursday, soaking rains fell over Berlin for much of the day, causing extensive flooding in the usual trouble spots. Berlin crews were seen in some areas pumping flood water with heavy equipment and clearing drains clogged with leaves and debris in other areas. In at least one community, however, help never came.
In Jamestown Place, a relatively new neighborhood just seven years old on William Street, the ditches breached their banks and flooded the streets and parking areas. For some residents there, the scene on Thursday was a common one and an instant reminder of the epic storm just two weeks ago.
“If we get even a three-inch rainfall, we’re done,” said resident Andrea Gilbertson. “We’re not even talking about a 100-year storm, or a 1,000-year storm like they told us that last one was.”
Jamestown Place resident Joe Hoff was waging a battle against the latest onslaught of flooding on Thursday with sandbags piled up against the bottom of his garage.
“Every night it rains, you lie awake and wonder just how much water will come and how far up in your garage or into your house it will come,” he said. “You get paranoid after a while, but you really have to be aware and watch the weather and make preparations.”
Holly Moreland also lives in Jamestown Place, and when the water started to rise on Thursday, she left her job to make sure her family, including small children in the house, were safe.
“They all say there is a plan in place, but we never see any action,” she said. “If there is a plan, they’re not implementing it, or it’s not working.”
After the last storm in late August, many residents had extensive damage to their homes and vehicles caused by rising flood waters.
“Our first concern is safety obviously, but there is a cost to this continual flooding,” said Gilbertson. “After that last flood, four or five cars had to be totaled because there was that much water.”
Gilbertson said the community’s position with the town on the flooding issue had not reached the adversarial point, but the residents’ options were being exhausted.
“We’re willing to work with anybody and everybody on this,” she said. “We’re just looking for some cooperation, but it’s getting to the point we might have to go down the legal road.”
Hoff said he and other residents are confounded by the apparent lack of action on the town’s part on the flooding issue.
“We obviously have a big problem here,” he said. “I just can’t comprehend a town not willing to take care of the people that take care of them.”
At last week’s meeting, days after more than a foot of rain was dumped on Berlin, citizens, including Gilbertson, expressed their frustrations with the recurring flooding.
Last year, the University of Maryland (UMD) Environmental Finance Center began a free stormwater study of the town in an effort to determine Berlin’s weaknesses and possible solutions to those flaws. With results expected this fall, Mayor Gee Williams advised a room full of concerned residents at last week’s meeting to be patient. Williams wants to form a stormwater utility in the near future to lead the charge on these ongoing matters.