Emergency crews are swamped by calls as snow from blizzard melts quickly Flooding closes roads

strong winds trigger power outages in county

January 21, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh and Amy L. Miller | Mike Farabaugh and Amy L. Miller,SUN STAFF

Carroll County crews responded to about 200 weather-related emergencies Thursday and Friday, but perhaps none traveled as far as the Gamber Volunteer Fire Department.

Its boats and dive team responded to about a dozen water rescue calls in Carroll and northern and western sections of Baltimore County on Friday, a firefighter at the station said between calls that night. They were unable to respond to at least 12 more because they were tied up with other incidents, he said.

The Gamber units were canceled before arriving at many of the rescues as local firefighters and even neighbors and construction workers with dump trucks and front-end loaders rescued the stranded from cars and homes surrounded by floodwaters.

Parts of more than 70 roads in the county were closed because of rising water, a spokeswoman for the county's Emergency Operations Center said Friday. By yesterday, that number had dropped to six.

Many of the closures were concentrated in northwestern Carroll, and most involved unimproved roads that were washed away by the combination of melting snow and torrential rain.

"My wife just called all excited because the road washed out right in front of her," Tfc. James S. Emerick of the Maryland State Police said Friday afternoon.

Trooper Emerick, who lives on Baughman Mill Road just outside Lineboro, said his wife was following a neighbor down the road when it disappeared between them.

"A second earlier or later, and my wife and two kids or the neighbor would have been washed away," Trooper Emerick said.

Roads in Carroll County are closed when a determination is made that the water is too deep and the street is too dangerous to travel, he said.

"It can be the police, fire departments or even a citizen who feels it is too deep," Trooper Emerick said, noting that only the state and county highway departments can reopen the roads.

"They're closed until the water subsides a little to tell what has happened," he said. "It could be [today], it could be Monday."

State police said they knew of no injuries related to the flooding.

Two motorist were plucked from an area on Fringer Road near Francis Scott Key Highway in Taneytown.

In the first incident Friday morning, a woman crawled into the bucket of a front-end loader and was carried to high ground. That afternoon, firefighters from Taneytown and Union Bridge were assisted by the Gamber boat and the ladder tower from Emmitsburg in Frederick County to rescue a motorist in the same spot.

Other rescues were at houses on Locust Street in Union Bridge and at Keysville Road and Route 77 in Detour. Motorists were also rescued from cars stuck in rising water at Marriottsville Road and Marriottsville Road No. 2 in southeast Carroll, on Harney Road just outside Taneytown and at Ladiesburg Road and Route 75 near Linwood.

Nancy Caplan, a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman, said about 1,480 customers in Carroll were without electricity Friday evening. About 2,600 in Carroll had been without power throughout the day. Figures for Carroll County were not available yesterday.

High winds knocking down poles or blowing trees onto wires were to blame for most of the outages, she said.

"System damage takes a little bit longer to fix" than individual outages, she said.

People coming home from work Friday evening were reporting power outages and flooded basements that emergency crews had not learned about earlier in the day, she said.

Crews were tied up for a couple of hours in Westminster with a flooded basement that also destroyed a heating oil tank. The county's hazardous materials team was called to help prevent the oil-coated water from reaching nearby streams.

County schoolchildren were released three hours early, but some buses in the Union Bridge area could not transport the children home and drivers returned them to schools to wait in safety, said Jim Doolan, chief of the county schools' transportation division.

"We don't have an exact count yet, but all the parents of the schoolchildren have been called and asked to come and pick them up," Mr. Doolan said Friday.

The students affected seemed to be from either Francis Scott Key High School or Elmer A. Wolfe Elementary School, he said.

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