WASHINGTON - Flood waters began to recede along the Patuxent River in Laurel, Md., Thursday evening, and the flood warning for the area expired, though high waters were still a concern.
City officials declared a civil emergency after water was released to relieve the swollen Patuxent River upstream from Laurel after as much as six inches of rain fell on the area overnight.
The Patuxent River crested at 12.5 feet Thursday afternoon but had dropped one foot as of 5 p.m. at the U.S. Route 1 bridge in Laurel. A commuter lot remains under water and is closed, the National Weather Service says.
Flood water continues to flow through the Duckett Dam north of the city and releases are expected to decrease this evening. However river levels are expected to crest further south as the rushing water travels downstream, the weather service says.
Public works crews began removing barricades and the city closed a shelter it had opened earlier in the day for anyone evacuating Laurel's historic district. The city also cancelled its voluntary evacuation order.
The National Weather Service predicted the release of flood water would likely cause higher water levels than the area has seen in many years.
Anne Arundel County police said a woman was found dead Thursday morning in a flooded homeless camp near the Patuxent River. Police say she died before the flood gates were opened.
River Front Park in Laurel was under water as of 1 p.m. Thursday and the U.S. Route 1 bridge that leads into Laurel's historic district was closed to traffic, reported WTOP's Kate Ryan.
"The river has risen so much that it is hitting the underside of the top of the bridge," Ryan said.
Laurel Mayor Craig A. Moe called for the voluntary evacuation of properties in the historic district along Main Street North to the Patuxent River, an area which includes homes and businesses. The evacuation and flooding could affect hundreds of people, said Pete Piringer, public information officer for Laurel.
"Anyone in that area should take action. We are taking aggressive action right now," Piringer said.
The Laurel College Center, on Marshall Avenue, announced it would close at 4 p.m. because of flooding in the area.
Other areas likely to flood include Bowie and Upper Marlboro, which are further south and downstream of the dam, according to the weather service.
Heavy rains caused water levels on the river to rise, forcing the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission to release water from the flood gates of the T. Howard Duckett Dam, Piringer said.
Those who travel I-95 between the exits for Maryland Routes 216 and 198 might be familiar with the dam, as the large structure can be seen on the west side of the highway.
WTOP's Kate Ryan filed this short video from Laurel, Md.
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The Associated Press and WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.
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