A storm that came out of the Ohio Valley hit parts of Central Maryland and the city last night and early today with drenching rains, spectacular displays of lightning and winds strong enough to topple trees and disrupt electrical service.
Two building fires overnight, in Parkville and Cockeysville, were blamed on lightning strikes.
Peggy Mulloy, a spokesman for the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., said the storm caused outages to 52,000 customers in Carroll, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties. About 7,000 remained without power at mid-morning, and more storms were moving through the region, threatening new outages.
Mulloy said most of the outages were caused by transformers hit by lightning, while others were caused by trees falling on power lines.
In the Parkville fire, lightning struck the roof of an apartment building on Conroy Court early today, causing a three-alarm fire that forced the displacement of 31 residents, Baltimore County police said. No injuries were reported among the residents who were forced to flee the 22 apartments that were condemned due to fire, smoke and water damage.
The building was struck during a second storm that hit the area shortly after 1 a.m. today.
The fire was in the Ridge Garden apartments in the 2900 block of Conroy Court, directly across Putty Hill Avenue from the Parkville police and fire stations.
Police said a resident of the apartment unit at 2902 Conroy Court went to the station and reported his building had been hit by lightning.
When the first of several pieces of fire apparatus arrived on the scene, the roof and parts of the third floor were burning, said a fire department dispatcher.
The fire was declared under control at 3:09 a.m.
In Cockeysville, an antiques shop in the 10800 block of York Road received extensive damage early today when it was hit by lightning that ignited a fire in the basement.
The shop, in the former Stebbins-Anderson hardware store, is owned by Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, and her husband, William Bentley.
Police said neighbors smelled smoke around 2:30 a.m. and called the fire department. The fire went to two alarms and was declared under control at 3:12 a.m.
The storm born 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 Polie 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.
The electrical storms made up for the weak showing here of Hurricane Bob, which caused little trouble on the Eastern Shore, but battered parts of New England.
BG&E said it had dispatched a convoy of 20 vehicles and 55 repair crew members to Worcester, Mass., last night to help restore power to 200,000 New England Electric customers affected by Bob.
In Baltimore, burglar alarms set off by electrical malfunctions kept city police busy checking, and fire apparatus responded to several calls of lightning strikes and downed wires.
State Police at Westminster said electrical power was disrupted there around 8:30 p.m., forcing them to function with portable generators.
A section of Hollingsworth Road in Finksburg near Md. 91 was closed when a large tree was blown onto the roadway, police said. "We've got trees down all over the county," said a State Police dispatcher.
Westminster city police reported minor damage to trees and houses from gusting winds.
Michael Moser, a dispatcher for the Carroll County Central Alarm Office, said several houses were hit by lightning but that no injuries were reported. "At least two houses caught fire," he said, "while others suffered minor structural damage.
Moser said Westminster reported 2.5 inches of rain in about two hours, while New Windsor reported nearly four inches in about the same time period.
Shortly after 10 p.m. in Baltimore County, a large tree on Seminary Avenue between Railroad and Franke avenues in Lutherville was toppled by gusting winds and fell onto a car, police said. The occupant was taken to the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore, but his or her condition could not be learned because of information restrictions imposed on hospitals by the Maryland legislature.
A spokesman for the fire department said that a section of Seminary Avenue was closed until daylight while work crews cut up the fallen tree and removed it.
Sudden downpours were reported in Parkville, Lutherville, Cockeysville and Fort Howard during the night and in downtown Baltimore and other areas today..
A Cub Hill resident reported a near deluge of rain at 9:30 p.m. when he was stopped for a traffic light at Perring Parkway and Joppa Road but that it ended before he reached the Beltway overpass above Perring Parkway, less than a hundred yards away.