BALTIMORE (WJZ) — When extreme weather ends, the side effects just begin. Restoring power took most of this week — after last week’s nor’easter — and now a different effect is flowing downstream.
The US Army Corps of Engineers runs the debris vessel Reynolds out of Fort McHenry because, “if you’re a boat owner, you don’t want to meet up with the stuff we pick up,” says Ben Birney, who works the boat for the Corps.
The Reynolds picks up large debris — everything from trees to pilings to steel drums from the Inner Harbor and the Port of Baltimore. This past week, more than usual has been removed.
“When they open the gates on the Susquehanna dam up there, if the tides and winds are right, it’ll sweep it up into here,” said the boat’s captain Joe Huber.
Heavy debris first showed up in the Susquehanna toward the end of February, released by a warm spell and heavy rain. Up in Pennsylvania and New York, a river that had been locked in ice suddenly melted, and water levels quickly rose.
Devin Winand’s family has lived alongside the river for generations in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania.
“The combination of that basically scoured out everything that was in and along the watershed,” he said.
According to the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Ted Evgeniadis, “we haven’t really seen this much debris and trash and litter, I’d say in a couple of years.”
A lot of which is still backed up behind the Conowingo Dam in Maryland, and could be sent downstream when heavy nor’easter snow up north melts, and spill gates at the dam are opened to handle the higher water.
Last year, 320,000 pounds of large debris was pulled from the Harbor. It only takes one piece to cause trouble.
“You’ve seen the spikes on the stuff in the barge, that’ll rip the bottom out of a boat so fast,” Birney said.
“The chances of someone getting hurt are probably pretty good,” Huber said.