Town & county officials debrief after Saturday emergency
by Jazz Clark
A special meeting was called at the courthouse on Sunday, September 2, to address the flood issues and damages to downtown Berkeley Springs the day before.
As of Sunday night, there were still power outages across Morgan County from the storm and flood.
At the Sunday meeting, the three Morgan County Commissioners and Mayor Susan Webster signed a declaration stating there was imminent danger of storms in the town of Bath and for citizens to take caution.
Communication was an issue while the Berkeley Springs Fire Department battled the water downtown during the four-hour storm. Since fire and police are on different radio systems, coordination between the two entities was difficult.
Even while water was halfway up their tires, drivers were driving through caution tape and ignoring signs after Fire Chief Todd Ruppenthal closed down the road.
“Luckily, the water went down as fast as it raised up,” Ruppenthal said.
“This is the first time in my life that I have seen a flash flood so severe in this town,” Mayor Webster said. “If you have a basement, it's most likely flooded.”
Property owners’ problems were complicated by fact that the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wouldn’t let the fire department pump water out of basements.
The DEP will have to do the pumping themselves due to the fear of the water being contaminated.
The good news for those on town water is that while Berkeley Springs Water Works had to be shut down because of dirty water flowing in, the tanks are full of clean water from recent work performed on the pipe system.
By 6 p.m. on Saturday, water in Warm Springs Run was flowing at 200 cubic feet per second before the water gauge shut down.
The next step in flood management is a damage assessment by Homeland Security.
Businesses and homeowners are advised to keep all receipts for materials bought in rebuilding and cleanup.
Officials conducting the assessment should be in contact with everyone affected in the watershed area, said Dave Michaels, County Emergency Services director.