Storms leave 6 dead, power off Crews struggle to restore electricity in metropolitan area.

July 08, 1991|By Alisa Samuels and Joe Nawrozki | Alisa Samuels and Joe Nawrozki,Evening Sun Staff

Hard-pressed cleanup crews worked today to restore electrical service to thousands of homes and businesses in sections of Baltimore and Harford counties following a series of fierce thunderstorms yesterday that killed at least six people.

The utility was also braced for more potentially violent thunderstorms that the National Weather Service said were expected to roll through late today.

Bob Melrose, a weather service forecaster, said two storms were expected to hit Maryland, one from the north that could sweep through Cecil and Harford counties, and one from the west that could move through the central or southern part of Maryland.

"We had a 15-hour day yesterday and we're looking at another long one today with the severe thunderstorm warnings posted," Melrose said.

While 700 to 800 utility crew members -- many of whom had worked double shifts -- worked to restore power, BG&E officials opened two dry ice distribution centers in Towson and Bel Air [See Page A4].

"The extent of the storm has put us behind in the restoration work," said BG&E spokeswoman Peggy Mulloy. "There are so many trees down that we have our trouble-shooting crews waiting for contracted tree-trimming workers. We're really stacked up."

Mulloy said about 5,500 customers remained without power for most of today in northern Baltimore and Harford counties. She said electricity should be restored by late afternoon.

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.

A total of about 87,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers lost electric service after the storms. The utility mobilized a force of more than 800 workers to repair downed lines, cut fallen trees free off the lines and repair lightning-damaged equipment, a BG&E spokesman said.

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.

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 zTC 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, 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 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.

"They were out in the open and nothing around but marshgrass and little sandy beach," Wiedeck said.

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."

At 1:40 p.m. yesterday, State Police said, 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.

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