Utility and cleanup crews were busy today after a series of violent thunderstorms that flipped pleasure boats on Chesapeake Bay, cut power to thousands of homes and killed at least six people.
The deaths attributed to yesterday afternoon's storms included a Baltimore County couple struck by lighting and three children who died in a car crash on a rain-swept road in Carroll County.
Some 87,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers lost power, and the utility mobilized a force of 1,000 workers to repair downed lines and lightning-damaged equipment, a BG&E spokesman said. Early today, some 8,000 homes still were without electricity.
At least 18 boats were capsized, including a 36-foot cabin cruiser in Wharton Creek in Kent County, a State Natural Resources Police spokesman said.
"The storm came through and flipped every boat in the bay, it seems like," said a spokesman for the state Natural Resources Police.
Police grabbed people from the water and put them into police boats, leaving the capsized boats afloat.
"Boats were bumping into each other," he said.
What made the situation worse was that so many boaters were out enjoying what had been a nice day on the Fourth of July weekend, the spokesman said.
"Everybody and his mother who owns a boat were out boating," he said, "as a result that caused problems."
Police were responding to seven or eight Mayday calls at once. "They were running like chickens," he said.
Across the state, there were reports of dime-sized and quarter-sized hail in Gaithersburg and Damascus, respectively, and a report of a tornado in Bel Air, which proved to be false.
In Baltimore, 50- to 55-mph winds swept through the city.
By 2:50 p.m., temperatures in Baltimore had fallen 23 degrees, from 99 to 76. At the airport, the temperatures dropped from 98 degrees to 72, said Bob Melrose, a forecaster at BWI.
The rain accumulation varied. Brooklyn reported 0.96 inches of rain by 5 p.m., Bel Air 1 inch and 0.25-inch fell at BWI.
The storms turned a day of fun on Chesapeake Bay into tragedy for Penny Lee Chatterton, 52, and her husband, Robert Charles Chatterton, 55, of the 1300 block of Goose Neck Road, Baltimore County police said.
They were alone on a 14-foot boat on the bay when the storm approached at 2:30 p.m., Baltimore County police said.
The Chattertons went quickly ashore to nearby Hawthorne Cove for safety and placed a tarp over their heads to protect them from the rain, Baltimore County and State Natural Resources Police said.
They were about a mile away from the Goose Neck Yacht Club in the 4000 block of Briar Point Road in eastern Baltimore County.
Police said it was then when lightning struck them.
"Witnesses said they saw a brilliant flash of light and the next thing, they were lying on the ground," said Officer Walter Wiedeck, of the Baltimore County Police Department's Marine Unit.
"They were out in the open and nothing around but marshgrass and little sandy beach," Wiedeck said.
"This is just a freak accident," he said. "Basically they did what they were supposed to do and they did nothing wrong.
"The only thing wrong was they were in the wrong spot at the wrong time," he said.
Another woman, Lynn Bolgen, in her 20s, received electrical shock to her elbow, but was treated on the scene, police said.
Apparently, there were at least four other people in the vicinity when the deadly lightning struck.
Wiedeck said that about the time the couple were struck by lightning, police had received 30 rescue calls, but "we couldn't handle them all."
Meanwhile, the thunderstorms, which brought 43-mph to 63-mph winds and varying amounts of rain, caused trouble for areas all across the state.
At 1:40 p.m. yesterday, State Police said, the three children and their father were involved in an accident in a 1991 Ford Taurus station wagon on Route 97, three miles south of Humbert Schoolhouse Road in Carroll County.
Russell Michael Corbett, 26, of the 1100 block of Humbert Schoolhouse Road in Silver Run, was driving south on Route 97 when he failed to negotiate a turn.
Corbett crossed the center line and his station wagon struck a northbound 1990 Buick Skylark, State Police said.
From there, the station wagon continued, striking a 1991 Jeep Cherokee head-on, police said.
Killed were Corbett's children, Russell Michael Corbett Jr., 3; Jacqueline Michelle Corbett, 5; and Loren Cassidy Corbett, 18 months; State Police said.
The elder Corbett and his wife, Betty Lou Corbett, 24, were taken to Washington County General Hospital and the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore respectively, State Police said.
Kathy Posedenti, 15, of the 200 block of Carnation Court, was also injured and taken to the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore, State Police said.
Also injured was the driver of the Buick, Christy Colpus Parkent, 39, of Ellicott City. She was treated for minor injuries at Howard County General Hospital, State Police said.
The driver of the jeep, Peter Ike Levine, 32, of the first block of Virginia Ave. in Reisterstown, was taken to Washington County General Hospital.
Two passengers also were injured. Oren Marc Goldenberg, 37, of the 3300 block of Lee Court in Baltimore; and Erika Anita Balogh, 23, of the 1000 block of Wilda Drive in Westminster, were taken to the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore.
Another apparently storm-related death occurred yesterday when a 34-year-old Preston, Dorchester County, man fell off his 15-foot outboard motorboat while repairing the engine in the choppy waters of Cabin Creek off the Choptank River.
Police said Grover Corchoran Jr. was attempting to repair the motor around 3 p.m. yesterday in rough water and had gotten the engine to start when he apparently fell overboard.
Police said the boat's propellers were turned to one side, causing it to circle around the man as he struggled in the water. He apparently was struck by the blades.