Spared yesterday by Hurricane Bob, the Baltimore region emerged from the threat only to be pounded by a night of spectacular, damaging thunderstorms, and by new storms today that dumped torrential rains on northern sections.
The storms flooded roads and streams, downed trees, limbs and power lines in Carroll, Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties, and loosed a torrent of emergency calls.
There were unconfirmed reports of at least three tornado sightings.
A 12-year-old boy was swept down a concrete drainage area in Cockeysville today, as he apparently attempted to cross the water that had grown deep and rough from heavy rain.
The youngster managed to pull himself from the torrent before rescue teams arrived. He was listed in stable condition at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The hospital would not release his name because of information restrictions imposed by the Maryland legislature.
James Terrell, chief of the Harford County Department of Emergency Operations, said his agency had received dozens of calls from the mid-morning storm today reporting wires and trees down throughout the county.
There were also reports of several house fires apparently caused by lightning strikes, he said. Terrell had no details on possible damage or injuries.
"That was the hardest rain I've seen in my 44 years," he said.
The Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) was investigating reports of tornados touching down in Montgomery County, and at two locations near Jacksonville in Baltimore County today.
Baltimore County police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Doarnberger said witnesses said a tornado-like storm toppled a tree onto a house and destroyed a construction trailer at 11 a.m. near Sweet Air and Carroll Manor roads east of Sweet Air.
MEMA investigator Rob Gould investigated that scene this afternoon and said, "Something went through here, but I don't know if it was a tornado or not."
National Weather Service said an investigator was en route to Sweet Air to determine whether the damage was caused by a tornado.
Weather service observers in the path of today's thunderstorms reported heavy downpours, with accumulations of more than an inch an hour.
The heavy rains this morning turned the drainage area near Stonegate Court in Cockeysville from a 6-inch-deep brook into a raging river.
Glenn Dean, who is visiting his sister, was getting ready for breakfast about 10 a.m. when he looked out the window and saw a boy put his foot into the water.
"All of a sudden, he got swept up," Dean said.
The boy didn't travel far before he managed to grab some branches that were hanging over the water, said Dean, who called for his brother-in-law, Doyle Valentine, for help.
"We could hear [the boy] screaming," Dean says.
Dean's sister, Beverly Valentine, called 911. But by the time the rescue team got there, the boy had managed to pull himself out.
"He was conscious and breathing, so we just covered him up until the ambulance came," said Donna Curtis, a neighbor who heard the boy's cries.
None of the people who helped the boy knew his name.
Curtis, who has lived in the neighborhood for 32 years, says that about 10 years ago a young girl was swept up by the water, which is normally about 18 inches wide and six inches deep. The girl also managed to pull herself out, but Curtis said that many children just don't realize the strength of the water after a storm.
"Suddenly, that thing can be just like a raging river," she says. If I see a group of small ones out there, I usually ask them not to be so close. They just don't realize the power."
Today's storms crossed the same region battered overnight by drenching rains, spectacular displays of lightning and winds strong enough to topple trees and disrupt electrical service.
Fires overnight in a Parkville apartment complex and a Cockeysville antiques shop, were blamed on lightning strikes.
Peggy Mulloy, a spokesman for the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., said the overnight storm caused outages to 52,000 customers in Carroll, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties.
Art Slusark, another BG&E spokesman, said 19,000 more customers lost power during today's storms. About 15,600 remained without electricity this afternoon: 6,000 in Carroll County; 2,372 in northern Baltimore County; 5,675 in Bel Air and 1,139 in Howard County.
Mulloy said most of the outages were caused by transformers hit by lightning, while others were caused by trees falling on power lines.
The storm born yesterday in the Ohio Valley headed east out of the mountains west of Hagerstown in Washington County and announced its presence with lightning and loud claps of thunder before dumping nearly four inches of rain on parts of Carroll County.
Two inches fell at State Police barracks in Westminster and Bel Air, 1.3 inches in Pikesville and Hagerstown. The airport recorded just .12 inches of rain, but more storms were moving through the region at mid-morning.