Cleanup thunders into gear Power restored for most

downed trees removed

July 16, 1993|By Frank Langfitt and James M. Coram | Frank Langfitt and James M. Coram,Staff Writers Staff writers Kris Antonelli, Mary Maushard, Shanon Murray, Monica Norton and TaNoah V. Sterling contributed to this article.

The cul-de-sacs of Columbia were alive with the sound of chain saws yesterday as the area hardest hit by Wednesday's storms began cleaning up branches and fallen trees that littered the community.

As temperatures around Baltimore rose into the high 80s, the demand for dry ice followed.

Residents of Howard County, central Baltimore County northern Baltimore who had been without electricity since Wednesday headed to three sites to pick up dry ice. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. doled out more than 50,000 pounds to keep customers' freezers cold.

"Business has been steady," said BG&E employee Marcus Johnson as fog rolled off the distribution truck in Ellicott City.

Utility officials said the dry ice pickup locations were to have been closed down by midnight.

At 4:30 a.m. today , power had been fully restored to all of the approximately 144,000 customers who lost power Wednesday, said BG&E spokesman Art Sluzark.

All but about 7,800 in Central Maryland had regained it by 8 p.m. yesterday, a company official said.

Power remained out for about 4,200 homes in Howard County, 2,600 in Baltimore, 910 in Baltimore County, 27 in Anne Arundel County, 58 in Carroll County and six in Harford County, before it was back on line before dawn today, spokesman Sluzark said.

The power went out when a series of brief but violent thunderstorms swept through the area Wednesday afternoon and evening. Lightning knocked down power lines and trees, but few injuries or damaged homes were reported.

In Baltimore, the storm struck hardest in the northwestern part of the city, said Jim Dicker, spokesman for the Forestry Division of the Department of Recreation and Parks. He estimated that it would take a week or two to clean up the fallen trees left by the storm.

"There were 40 to 50 trees downed near Franklintown Road near Leakin Park. It looks like a tornado went through there," Mr. Dicker said.

In Baltimore County, a storm downed trees and wires, blocking some roads. Cromwell Bridge Road was closed between Satyr Hill and Glen Arm roads for several hours yesterday after limbs fell on a passing pickup truck. Those inside the truck were not injured.

Lightning struck a townhouse in Crofton Commons in Anne Arundel County about 5 p.m., the Fire Department said. No one was injured. Damage to the home was estimated at $65,000.

There were no major injuries in Howard County, said Raquel Sanudo, the county administrator, but there were a number of accidents as a result of the storm. Homes were mostly spared.

"There were a lot of close calls -- trees falling close to houses -- but no property damage as far as I can see," said Keith McCracken, a private landscaping supervisor whose crew spent part of yesterday chopping up fallen trees in the Columbia Village of Owen Brown.

"It only took about 10 minutes for all this stuff to be blown down," said landscape worker Graham King as he pointed to another group of fallen trees nearby. "If the storm had lasted two hours, there would be no more trees in Columbia."

Most Columbia residents avoided damage, but not all. Amy Benson heard her young daughters, Jill and Katie, scream about 5 p.m. when the sycamore that had shaded their patio split in two.

The top of the tree headed straight for the sliding glass doors of the family room, but a trellis broke its fall. Damage to the house was minimal.

"That was a nice tree," said Mrs. Benson, staring at the gnarled 20-foot-high stump that remained yesterday.

Several miles away in Ellicott City, residents poured into the National Guard Armory to pick up 10-pound bags of dry ice.

Business was brisk. By 2 p.m., employees had distributed 1,440 bags. Each resident told a different tale of beating the heat without electricity.

Fred Shipley, 68, who lives in the Allview community, has been taking cold showers.

Patricia Dumler, who lives in Woodlawn, has kept the shades down on the sunny side of the house. She had been able to cook on her gas stove.

Charles Acquard of Columbia hasn't been so lucky.

Dependent on an electric stove, he and his wife, Geraldine, had eaten breakfast and lunch at McDonald's and, were tired of that. In addition, a tree had fallen on his Honda Accord.

"It's been a lousy day," he said.

BG&E workers constantly reminded people not to put the blocks of dry ice into their refrigerators because the ice freezes everything it gets near. (The temperature of dry ice is 78.5 Celsius.)

Yesterday, one of the workers unloading blocks rested a soda bottle on one in the hot sun. Within 15 minutes the soda was frozen.

Many of those without electricity kept their sense of humor and used their imaginations.

About 2:30 p.m. a middle-aged man pulled up in his car to pick up dry ice. He said he had spent the day driving around in his air-conditioned car and sitting in malls. Asked where he planned to stay that evening, he laughed.

He said, "You're way ahead of me," then rolled up his window and drove off.

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