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Crisfield flooding called worst since 1985

Tuesday - 10/30/2012, 7:28pm  ET

Associated Press

CRISFIELD, Md. (AP) - Maryland's southernmost town bills itself as the "crab capital of the world." Tucked into a remote corner of the lower Eastern Shore, Crisfield _ population 2,723 _ owes its existence to the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay. Of its 3 square miles, 46 percent are water.

In the wake of superstorm Sandy, that percentage ticked upward, and hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate after what they called the worst flooding since Hurricane Gloria in 1985.

Brian Beckley, a 32-year-old handyman, said he saw "whitecaps going down Main Street" before he and his mother left their two-story home, built in 1882, on Monday afternoon. He lamented that people might forget about his small town with so much attention on the damage in New York and New Jersey.

"Where's the help after this is over?" he said.

Early Tuesday afternoon, at a cemetery on North Somerset Ave., two caskets _ one silver and the other bronze _ had been forced out of their graves, their sides visible above the grass. The cement slabs that had covered the graves were dislodged.

On Cove Street, water was covering lawns and splashing against the front steps of houses. One home decorated for Halloween had water soaking small ghost and Frankenstein decorations in the yard, and at the house across the street, a rowboat was tied up but floating in the yard. Fallen trees brought down some power lines.

Troops from the National Guard were evacuating people from Somers Cove Apartments, a community of subsidized housing. Streets in the area were flooded, and soldiers were loading residents onto the backs of trucks.

Harold "Doc" Sterling, who has lived in the area for 20 years, said about an inch of water crept into his home. He lost power Monday afternoon along with his heat and telephone service.

"I stayed awake most of the night," he said.

A National Guardsman held Sterling's Bible as he climbed a ladder into a waiting truck with about 10 others.

Lloyd Tyler, executive director of the Somers Cove Marina, said about 250 boats were in the marina for the storm. He said he drove through streets with 16 to 20 inches of water to get there on Tuesday.

"The tide is all over Crisfield," Tyler said.

Still, Tyler said he felt as though the town had "dodged a bullet" despite the damage.

"I saw a mast that was bent in half," he said.

About 300 people, many of them from Crisfield, were expected to spend Tuesday night at a shelter at Washington High School in Princess Anne. Shelter director Rafael Correa said the shelter had served more than 400 people, though some had left, and others were still arriving by bus Tuesday afternoon.

Cots and mattresses were set up in the school's hallways and in some classrooms. About 10 dogs and one cat were being sheltered in crates. On Tuesday afternoon, some evacuees were watching the movie "Transformers" in the school's auditorium, while others glanced at a news broadcast that carried graphics of the remnants of Sandy.

Crisfield resident Mary Louise Dicus, 73, was staying at the shelter with her husband Robert, 74, and their three dogs. She went to the shelter first, but her husband followed when there was 5 inches of water in their garage, Dicus said.

Beckley and his mother had to be evacuated by boat. When they finally got on a school bus that would take them to the shelter, the bus was stuck for at least an hour because downed trees made the roads impassable. The family's minivan seemed as though it was about to float away when they left, Beckley said.

"I got three trees laying on my house right now," he said.

He said insurance will likely cover damage to the house, but not to anything inside.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)