FREDERICK, Md. (FOX 5 DC) — Many parts of the Washington, D.C. region are still drying out from Monday’s powerful storm. Homes, businesses and streets suffered damage in floodwaters, but city officials in Frederick are actually praising their more than 30-year-old flood plan for keeping the storm's impact to a minimum.
Baker Park is usually filled with people and beautiful weather, but on Monday, the whole place was underwater.
“Getting that much rain in such a short period of time does not allow that water to flow out over time so you have to have the ability to retain it, hold it back and then let it release over time,” said Richard Griffin, director of economic development City of Frederick.
In a video captured Monday morning, you can see hundreds of thousands of gallons of muddy rainwater gushing like a waterfall and dozens of trees and park benches were submerged in what almost looks like rapids. This is not the Potomac River in Great Falls, this is supposed to be a park with a playground and where people walk their dogs.
However, back in 1972 and 1976, the City of Frederick was nearly wiped out by flooding off of Carroll Creek.
People had to be rescued from second-story windows and buildings, and streets were washed away.
In an effort to save the city and bring back not only the businesses and residents but also the tourists, the city spent around $60 million in the late 1980’s to begin building a new flood plan that would include Baker Park, which would act as a retention pond that feeds into large tunnels that run underground for more than a mile under the city and eventually feeds out into other rivers and streams.
As a result of that work, FEMA was able to remove downtown Frederick from the hundred-year flood plan.
Officials say because of the way this is built, the Frederick area only saw isolated damage from Monday’s storms.
“As I understand it, six inches of rain that fell over the period of the storm and that water was safely impounded up in the park and released overtime through this underground system and as a result of that all of our beautiful buildings are still intact and our citizens are able to go about their business today,” said Griffin.
“It’s an expensive system. It cost the city, county and the state between 50 and 60 million dollars back in the late 80s and 90s to build the system but we have had several new buildings and lots of new jobs and 2 million visitors every year coming to downtown Frederick now, spending more than one million dollars in the economy, partly because we were able to preserve the historic buildings in downtown and bring in exciting new businesses,” Griffin continued.
The flood project is so successful that other flood-prone areas are looking at it as an example.
Nearby Ellicott City, where they have suffered two devastating floods in recent years, is looking into similar options in that area.
A group from Statesboro, Georgia, will be in town Wednesday to tour the park to see if something like this could also work for them there.