Bethesda, Maryland — A 66-inch water main break on River Road in Bethesda, Maryland, this morning trapped more than a dozen motorists in their cars amid rushing flood waters in dangerously frigid conditions. Montgomery County Swift Water Rescue and Park Police brought helicopters to the scene, lowering rescue baskets to remove the trapped auto occupants. 12 motorists have been rescued so far; at least 3 were brought to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda and at least one is still trapped in a vehicle, according to Fox News. One of the rescued victims was a child, Fox reported. The status of the victims has not been reported. The rushing waters on River Road Bethesda, Maryland, flipped one vehicle.
The fast moving flood-like flow of water is impeding both rescue efforts and water turn off. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission told Fox that turning off the water on River Road in Bethesda Maryland will involve locating several different water valves one of which is known to be inaccessible due to the flooding. The process could take considerable time, according to the WSSC. A police rescue boat is having difficulty navigating in the fast moving water on River Road and has been unable to reach one stranded motorist apparently due to a combination of fast moving waters and roadside tree branches and utility lines interfering with its progress. A video of the ongoing rescue efforts can be seen here.
With morning temperatures at about 10 degrees, police say it is imperative to quickly remove all trapped victims from the scene. Hypothermia is a major risk in these winter flood conditions. The water main on River Road in Bethesda, Maryland burst early in the morning, reaching 4 feet in depth in some areas.
River Road is a major thoroughfare between Bethesda, Maryland and the District of Columbia that sees serious flooding with some frequency in the winter and spring months. The water main that broke today is said to be one of the largest in Montgomery County. The area under water was estimated at ½ to 1 mile in size by a reporter on one of 3 news helicopters surveying the scene. Those news helicopters were expecting to receive orders to vacate the air space surrounding the River Road, Bethesda water main break to make room for additional rescue helicopters. Drivers are urged to avoid the River Road area and can expect traffic delays on nearby roads as traffic is rerouted into the District of Columbia.
UPDATE: The Montgomery County alert system reported at 10:57 am that WSSC expects isolating the water main break to take 2-3 hours. It may take up to an additional 4 hours to restore water pressure to Montgomery County. The Bethesda Maryland water main break has not affected water quality in the region. Water outages have prompted Montgomery County Public Schools to shut down for winter break 2.5 hours early.
Sources: http://www.foxnews.com/; Fox News Channel 5 television coverage; Montgomery County Alert message system; http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081223/ap_on_re_us/water_main_break.