Heavy rain in Prince George’s causes flash flooding; two dozen homes evacuated

Heavy storms drenched Prince George’s County on Tuesday morning, causing dramatic flash flooding that left drivers stranded on rain-soaked roads and forced residents of about two dozen homes to be evacuated. No injuries were reported.

Hit by the most damage was Berwyn Heights, a small town of 3,000 near College Park, where residents spent the afternoon dragging waterlogged furniture, clothes and toys onto their lawns while trying to clean up from flooding.

Evelyn Ruiz, 43, sat in front of her family’s house on 59th Avenue, her red eyes staring at a decade’s worth of possessions slowly drying in the sun.

“We have to throw away all this stuff,” said her husband, Max Ruiz, 46, pointing to a laptop covered in dirt.

Ruiz and his son spent the morning bailing water out of their basement before having to give up. The water reached Ruiz’s chest, and firefighters had to pull him out of a window because he couldn’t get out the door.

At least 20 residents were sent to a temporary shelter set up in the morning at Berwyn Heights Elementary School, said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department. But many returned home when the sun came out.

Jason Samenow, chief meteorologist for the Capital Weather Gang, said the region’s most extreme rainfall inundated the College Park area, which had four to five inches over two hours. Much of the county was under a flash-flood watch until about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’ve had some other flooding events like this this year,” Samenow said, “but it was the amount of rain falling in such a short period of time that distinguishes this particular event.”

Brady said the department conducted at least 24 water rescues starting about 9:40 a.m., shortly after the National Weather Service issued its flash-flood warning for the region.

In most flooding situations, emergency crews come upon cars that have driven into standing, high water, Brady said. But on Tuesday, many of the rescues were for vehicles that became stuck while near intersections that suddenly flooded.

“If there’s ever a textbook example of flash flooding, this is it,” Brady said. “The water was up to the door handles.”

Fire crews also rescued two dogs that had been tied up in a Riverdale back yard, Brady said.

“The water started to quickly rise, and the homeowner was home but couldn’t do anything with water rushing in,” Brady said. “They were tied up and had nowhere to go.”

Although the rain subsided by lunchtime, residents braced themselves for the possibility of more floods because meteorologists were forecasting another storm rolling through the area during the evening.

And it might not be the last of the season’s floods, Samenow said, since very localized, hard-to-predict storms are no stranger to the region this time of year.

“In June, it is humid and tends to be the month we see flooding events,” Samenow said. “It is nothing totally out of character for the month.”

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Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.
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