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Fresh Water, Foul Sewage

Environmentby Mark Reutter and Fern Shen2:28 pmJul 24, 20180

Businesses evacuated, bridges closed as Jones Falls rises

Record-setting rain causes the Jones Falls to surge, prompting the closing of Whole Foods and other businesses

Above: The rain-swollen Jones Falls nearly washes over the bridge to Baltimore’s Meadow Mill complex in Woodberry today. The mill complex was evacuated this morning. (Mark Reutter)

Heavy rain today turned the Jones Falls into a raging torrent, prompting fire officials to evacuate two large business complexes in North Baltimore.

As chocolate-colored water lapped at the Smith Avenue bridge at Mt. Washington Mill, firefighters and emergency management officials ordered the evacuation of the Whole Foods Market, Starbucks, Meadowbrook Swim Club and other businesses.

By 11 a.m., the Smith Avenue bridge, the only vehicular link to the complex, was closed to traffic.

An employee at the Mt. Washington Post Office, located on nearby Cottonworth Avenue, said it was still technically open for business. “But I don’t know how the trucks are going to get back,” she said.

An evacuated but dry Whole Foods stands beneath sodden skies this afternoon. (Mark Reutter)

An evacuated but dry Whole Foods stands beneath sodden skies today. The Jones Falls, which swings around the complex on the left, stayed within its banks. (Mark Reutter)

It was the same story downstream, where the rising Jones Falls threatened to surge over the bridge leading to the Meadow Mill buildings.

“Never a dull moment,” tweeted the ACLU of Maryland, one of the businesses located there.

“Our work will continue (but not at the Baltimore office). Stay safe and dry everyone,” the group announced, retweeting a video of the high water slopping over the top of the bridge.

Further downstream, water rushed within feet of the rear parking lot of historic Whitehall Mill, a re-purposed residential complex.

And on lower Falls Road, near the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, geysers of sewage water surged from a half dozen manhole covers, turning a portion of the roadway into a smelly, shallow canal.

Sewage overflows from a manhole cover on lower Falls Road beneath the CSX bridge that spans the Jones Falls. (Mark Reutter)

Sewage spews from a manhole cover on Falls Road beneath the CSX bridge spanning the Jones Falls. (Mark Reutter)

Baltimore’s Wettest July

Today was the latest in a string of rainy days that made July at first a noticeably parched – and then a remarkably soaked – month.

According to the National Weather Service, Baltimore picked up another 2.29 inches of rain today, pushing up the total rainfall since last Saturday to over 13 inches.

The previous record of 11.03 inches for July dates back to 1889.

Looking north from Smith Avenue bridge at the Mt. Washington Mill complex. (Mark Reutter)

Looking north from the closed Smith Avenue Bridge, the mocha-colored Jones Falls surges between Mt. Washington Mill and the concrete wall holding up Falls Road. (Mark Reutter)

A lake of water forms on Falls Road, as water geysers up from manhole covers. (Mark Reutter)

The pressure of sewage mixed with rainwater lifts up the manhole covers of the sewer main that runs beneath lower Falls Road. The effluent flows into the Jones Falls (behind the fence) near Outfall No. 67. BELOW: Sewage water drains into Western Run just east of the light rail station at Mt. Washington. (Mark Reutter)

Sewage water flows from a manhole into Western Run just east of Mt. Washington Village this afternoon. (Mark Reutter)

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