High winds down power lines, bring back cold weather

December 15, 1991|By David Michael Ettlin

Powerful winds ripped across much of Maryland last night, toppling trees onto power lines, damaging buildings and property, and ushering in sharply colder weather.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reported that the wind gusts reached the western edge of its million-customer Central Maryland power system in Howard and Carroll counties about 5 p.m. and were clocked at more than 50 mph.

By 9:30 p.m., BG&E said, about 49,000 of its customers were without electricity. Hardest hit, said utility spokeswoman Peggy D. Mulloy, were Anne Arundel County, where power was out for 14,000 homes and businesses; Howard County, with 8,600 customers lacking power; and Carroll County, with 7,800 customers affected.

Fire departments in the Baltimore area received hundreds of calls because of downed power lines, more than 150 in the city alone.

Potomac Electric Power Co., which serves the

Washington area, said 13,000 customers were blacked out in the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

A powerful cold front moving out of the upper Great Lakes region and southwestern Quebec was blamed for the high winds.

The winds marked the end of springlike temperatures that included a record yesterday -- a 62-degree high at Baltimore-Washington International Airport that topped the 1983 mark of 60. Temperatures at BWI had plunged into the upper 30s by 9 p.m., about the same time the National Weather Service discontinued its high-wind warning for the region.

The Weather Service reported wind gusts as high as 62 mph in northern Carroll County and 53 mph at BWI. The wind warnings were issued for Baltimore and for 16 counties, excluding only Southern Maryland and the Lower Shore.

Scattered damage reported across Baltimore included roofing ripped from an east-side row house, wires tangled in tree branches, brush fires ignited by downed power lines, and toppled signs and promotional banners in the downtown area.

In Washington County, a barn collapsed and caught fire in Clear Spring, and in Garrett County, Sheriff's Department dispatcher Jack Michaels said some sheets of tin blew off a roof.

Hagerstown police said a railroad crossing gate snapped in the wind and a shed was blown out of a yard into the street. They reported no injuries.

"It's been really busy," said a spokesman for the Baltimore County police, noting that wires and tree limbs were reported down all over the county.

"We've got all kinds of alarms going off all over the city," said Lt. Gary Martin of the Baltimore police. The high winds were rattling windows and touching off the alarms, he said.

On the Key Bridge, Toll Plaza Officer James Pendergast said empty box trucks and trailers were barred because of high winds.

Temperatures today were expected to reach only the 40s, with winds of 20 to 30 mph, then plunge below freezing by tomorrow.

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