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.
John Metzger, a spokesman for the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., said the storm caused outages to 18,700 customers in Carroll, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties.
Outages were reported in the city, he said, but an estimate of the number was not immediately available.
Metzger said most of the outages were caused by transformers hit by lightning, while others were caused by trees falling on power lines. He said all service was expected to be restored by midmorning.
In the Parkville section of Baltimore County, 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, 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 storm out of the Ohio Valley headed in 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.
Roaring through the four counties and the city, the storm made up for the weak showing here of Hurricane Bob, which caused little trouble on the Eastern Shore.
At 12:20 a.m. today, a city fire department dispatcher said very little or no rain had fallen in the city and no emergency calls were reported. "We don't have any pieces of equipment out responding to any storm problems," said the dispatcher."
Ten minutes later, the city was the scene of a typical summer storm as heavy rain fell, lightning lighted up the sky and thunder boomed.
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.
Metzger said that at the height of the storm, 18,700 BG&E customers were without power in the four counties and that by 11 p.m. service was still out for some 12,800.
Service remained out at midnight for 4,500 customers in Carroll, 3,800 in Baltimore County, 2,600 in Harford and 1,800 in Howard.
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 the type and extent of injuries were not immediately available.
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 and Fort Howard.
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 quarter-mile from the intersection.
The apartment building fire in Parkville was reported at 1:05 a.m. and occurred at 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.