Gusts slam Maryland Snow blankets western areas of the state

December 06, 1992|By Jay Apperson and Patrick Gilbert | Jay Apperson and Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writers

A low pressure system off the coast of Nova Scotia was to blame for the winds that blustered across Maryland yesterday, knocking down trees, wires and a house and canceling a holiday boat parade.

In Western Maryland, the same pressure system created near-blizzard conditions in the season's first major snowfall -- up to a foot of snow in some higher elevations.

Forecasters at Baltimore-Washington International Airport reported gusts of 48 miles an hour yesterday, steady winds of 30 miles an hour and a teeth-chattering wind-chill factor of 5 degrees.

Those elements, which produced swells of 3 to 5 feet on the Chesapeake Bay, apparently hindered a kayaker's attempt to negotiate the 25 nautical miles between Annapolis and St. Michaels.

Rescue teams from the U.S. Coast Guard and Maryland Department of Natural Resources police were searching last night for the missing male kayaker, whom they would not identify. He had been due in St. Michaels at 4 p.m., having left Bembe Beach near Annapolis about 9 a.m.

Frederick County sheriff's deputies said the winds were enough to knock over a house under construction near Thurmont and pin the builder, R. Benjamin Ogle, 52, beneath the wreckage.

Mr. Ogle was treated for minor injuries, said authorities, who added that details of the incident were turned over to state occupational safety officials for further investigation.

The wind also prompted Maryland Toll Facilities police to restrict empty tractor-trailers and campers from the Key Bridge, where a gust of 52 miles an hour and steady winds of 44 miles an hour were recorded.

"That's the highest it's been in a while," said Officer Manuel W. Crew. "The norm here is usually about 18 to 20."

A parade of more than 50 power and sailboats festooned with holiday lights was canceled because of the high winds, said Tracy Baskerville, spokeswoman for the Baltimore Office of Promotion.

The boats were to have cruised from the Canton shoreline to the Inner Harbor.

Police throughout the Baltimore area reported downed trees, signs and power lines, although there were no widespread outages.

Art Slusark, spokesman for the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., said yesterday that about 10,500 of the million customers in central Maryland were briefly without power at different times yesterday.

He said the outages were widely scattered, with the largest concentration in Howard County, where a damaged feeder line left about 500 without power.

At about 4 p.m. the wind blew off the top of a street lamp on the Harbor Tunnel Thruway, leaving the fixture dangling by a wire and briefly closing the northbound lanes at the entrance to the tube, police said.

And area police contended with the rash of alarms invariably triggered on days when the winds, rather than burglars, rattle storefront doors and windows.

The blizzard-like conditions in Garrett and western Allegany counties played havoc with traffic yesterday morning.

Winds gusting up to 35 miles an hour caused drifting and reduced visibility to near zero at times, State Police said.

Police said the snow caused several dozen traffic accidents and closed a two-mile section of Route 36 between Frostburg and Interstate 68 in western Allegany County.

The State Highway Administration garage on Keyser's Ridge in northwest Garrett County had 56 men and 40 pieces of equipment out trying to keep up with the blowing, drifting snow.

A dispatcher at the garage said there was a problem with stalled tractor-trailers and cars that had skidded off slick roads in the area. All of the major state roads and I-68 remained 100 percent covered with snow.

National Weather Service forecaster Ken Shaver said the snow storm dumped an average of 6 inches.

Another 1 to 3 inches was expected. The snow accumulation was the most to hit the state at one time since last winter, said Mr. Shaver.

Bob Melrose, another forecaster with the National Weather Service, said the northwesterly winds that blew through Maryland were caused when a cold front followed the low pressure system through Nova Scotia.

He said the winds were to diminish through the night but would remain at 10 to 20 miles an hour today.

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