Crash ties up Annapolis for hours

January 11, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Kris Antonelli, Carol L. Bowers and Arthur TTC Hirsch contributed to this article.

A car severed a utility pole at one of the busiest intersections in Annapolis just before dawn yesterday, sending thick, black power lines snaking across the streets and creating a traffic jam that nearly brought the city to a halt.

"It's basically gridlocked the entire city," said police Sgt. Philip Turner, who had been directing traffic for nearly six hours.

The accident caused temporary power outages to more than 1,000 residents and the resulting traffic jam made scores of teachers and students late for school and commuters late for work.

"It's never been that bad. Never," said Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins.

The intersection of Forest Drive and Spa Road, a crossroads on one of the few routes from the southern border of the city to the freeways for Baltimore and Washington, was closed to traffic for eight hours after a man drove his Ford Escort off the road into the utility pole about 4:20 a.m.

Police said the downed wires, although deactivated, were dangerous to motorists and immediately closed all four streets within a block of the intersection. They routed traffic off Forest Drive onto Hilltop Lane, which parallels Forest Drive to the north, forcing four lanes of traffic into two.

Meanwhile, commuters clogged roads throughout the city searching for alternate routes.

"It's taken 1 1/2 hours to go two miles," said Sergeant Turner.

Police reopened the intersection just before 12:30 p.m., but traffic remained heavy in the city throughout the afternoon.

The accident that caused the jam-up was relatively minor. Frank M. Wilson, 48, of the 1200 block of Crows Nest Court told police he was on his way to work when the driver of another car forced him off the road and into the pole.

The crash created a bright flash of light as the wires that carry electricity, cable television and telephone service to the Forest Drive corridor pulled loose. A loud boom sounded as the wooden pole splintered into three pieces.

"You could hear this good BANG noise and then the power went out," said Vincent Butler, who was watching television in his apartment on Hilltop Lane at the time of the crash.

Mr. Wilson walked across the street to a convenience store for coffee as city police raced to the scene. Later, he was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center, where he was treated and released. He said he had bruised ribs and muscle strains, but the aftermath of the accident left him feeling worse.

"Yeah, I got hurt," he said in a telephone interview. "It hurt my pride."

More than 1,375 people lost their electricity for about a half-hour when the 40-foot pole crashed, said Peggy Mulloy, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. Six work crews were sent to the scene, but some of them were stranded in the traffic snarl.

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