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Lee could bring major flooding along upper Potomac

HAGERSTOWN — The remnants of Tropical Storm Lee could cause major flooding along the upper Potomac River starting Wednesday night, the National Weather Service said.

The flood watches prompted the National Park Service to close campgrounds, boat ramps and visitor centers in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, which parallels the river’s Maryland bank for nearly 185 miles between Cumberland and Washington, D.C.

“Visitors are asked to refrain from entering the park,” spokeswoman Peggie Gaul said in a statement. “There is a risk of being swept away by swift water or becoming stranded along the towpath as the waters rise.”

The storm could drop up to 6 inches of rain on western Maryland by Thursday night, with the heaviest rainfall expected Wednesday night, the weather service said. The worst flooding would occur from Thursday afternoon in Paw Paw, W.Va., to Friday morning in Point of Rocks as the crest moves downstream.

At Williamsport, the river is expected to reach 35.5 feet, a 15-year high. At that level, the water would enter the C&O Canal visitor center and surpass the crest of 34.8 feet reached on Jan. 20, 1996.

Major flooding is also expected at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., the weather service said.

Moderate flooding is possible at Hancock and Little Falls, the agency said.