A thunderstorm carried across Maryland on dark, heavy clouds brought winds up to 60 mph and brief, heavy rain to parts of the state late yesterday as it made its way to the Atlantic coast.
Winds accompanying the storm, which dissipated as it moved east toward the shore, were reported between 50 and 60 mph in southern Anne Arundel County near the South River and parts of northeastern Carroll County around Millers just before 5 p.m.
Those winds pushed trees into power lines and left more than 26,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers immediately without power -- most of them in Carroll and Baltimore counties -- as the storm passed through their neighborhoods.
Repair crews had replaced power to all but 8,500 of those customers by 9 p.m. and continued to work into the night.
The National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport declared a tornado watch for most of the state at 4 p.m., when the storm was passing over Western Maryland.
Trees, some of them a foot or more in diameter, and power lines were knocked down by the storm; and the tornado watch -- lifted in Central Maryland by 8 p.m. -- only remained in effect for parts of the lower Eastern Shore until 10 p.m.
During the evening rush hour, the skies over Baltimore turned dark as huge black clouds hung low on the skyline as they moved toward the harbor.
"Any time you get some good thunderstorms the sky looks dark and menacing, despite the fact that 95 percent of thunderstorms are not severe," said Fred Davis, chief meteorologist for the weather service. "Even the ones that aren't severe looked menacing."
A woman in Millers reported downed trees and power lines and hail the size of peas and marbles.
"But she didn't see any funnel or touchdown," said Mr. Davis, discounting the woman's initial fears that a tornado had visited the small Carroll County town.
Hagerstown also got heavy wind and rain.
Mr. Davis said the storms were the result of warm, unstable air -- that brought rain to much of the state in the morning -- meeting up with a cold front out of the west.
"That usually sets off some pretty good storms," Mr. Davis said.
The 60 mph winds recorded in Millers at 4:50 p.m. tied the second-highest wind gusts recorded in Maryland, the weather service said.
The most powerful winds on record occurred Aug. 11, 1983, when speeds reached 62 mph.