Wednesday, Sep 7, 2011
Due to the very heavy rains falling on the region, the park declared a flood emergency yesterday morning. Members of the park’s staff are preparing for what the National Weather Service says could be one of the top ten major floods to strike the area. Areas of the park are being closed, including hiker/biker campgrounds, drive-up campgrounds, boat ramps, visitor centers, and day use areas. Portable toilets throughout the park are being emptied and closed. The Great Falls entrance road, Billy Goat A Trail, and Great Falls Overlook will be closed beginning today. The Canal Quarters program, which provides overnight accommodations in some of the historic lock houses, has been temporarily suspended. A section of the towpath has been closed between Offutt Street and Brehm Road in Allegany County because of a weakened culvert. Additional closures are likely through the week. Visitors are asked to refrain from entering the park and to respect all safety barriers, as there is a risk of being swept away by swift water or becoming stranded along the towpath as the waters rise. The rising water will be carrying extremely hazardous debris, trees, and man-made objects. In addition to the rising water, waterlogged soils can lead to other hazards, including uprooting of trees and falling branches. Visitors are advised to observe the rising water from a safe distance. An internal incident command team has been established to manage information, coordinate resources, and ensure the orderly implementation and completion of the park’s flood emergency response plan. The team’s top priorities are protection of life and the physical well-being of employees and visitors, and protection of park resources and government property.