Series of storms knocks out power to more than 20,000 Fire in Howard Co. blamed on lightning

July 09, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

A series of summer thunderstorms rocked Central Maryland yesterday, knocking out power to more than 20,000 utility customers, including 9,000 in Baltimore, and causing a fire that destroyed two apartments in Columbia.

The thunderstorms that started moving through the area in the early evening caused temperatures in Baltimore -- recorded at the downtown Custom House -- to drop by nearly 20 degrees. At 5 p.m., it was 94 degrees; it was 76 degrees at 8 p.m.

The storm knocked out power to about 23,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers, mostly due to lightning strikes, said BGE spokeswoman Kathleen Nolan.

Most of the outages were in the city, followed by several thousand in Baltimore and Howard counties; scattered outages were reported in Carroll, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

In the Oakland Mills section of Columbia, a lightning strike was the presumed cause of a fire that destroyed two units of an apartment complex, county fire officials said. No one was injured.

The cause of the fire, which was reported at 7: 07 p.m. in the complex in the 5600 block of Stevens Forest Road, was not officially determined last night. But witnesses told fire officials that they saw lightning go through the roof just before the blaze started, said Lt. Sean Kelly of the county's Department of Fire and Rescue.

In addition to the two units destroyed by fire, 10 others had

severe water damage. Nearly 20 people were displaced and were being relocated last night by the Red Cross.

Across the area, BGE crews were called in from home and the extent of the damage was still being evaluated last night. But there didn't appear to be many power lines down, so power was expected to be restored to most customers by this morning, Nolan said.

Baltimore City fire officials reported that lightning felled a few trees and caused traffic lights to malfunction at several intersections. The ceiling of a house in the 2900 block of Allendale Road in Northwest Baltimore collapsed, with no injuries.

In Taneytown in Carroll, about 30 basements were flooded.

The rain seemed to be most furious in northern Carroll, Baltimore and Frederick counties. The storms formed in the moist, warm summer air late yesterday afternoon and stayed because little wind pushed them along, said National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Nierow.

"There was not much wind to get them moving," Nierow said. "They just formed and stayed there."

The weather service issued a flash flood warning last night for Frederick, Carroll and northern Baltimore counties because of rain that radar indicated was falling at a rate of between 1 and 2 inches an hour. Small creeks in Frederick County were flooded with 2 1/2 inches of rain in 30 minutes, the weather service said.

Taneytown in Carroll County recorded between 4 and 5 inches of rain yesterday, Nierow said. Carroll's Emergency Operations Center reported that about 20 houses had between 2 feet and 5 feet of water.

Flooding was reported on Baltimore Street, Trevanion Terrace and Route 194 north of Taneytown.

Nierow said a similar situation could occur today -- hot and humid weather that will spawn scattered thunderstorms in the late afternoon, some capable of producing localized flooding.

"We'll have one more day of hot, humid weather," Nierow said. "Then Wednesday and Thursday look great" -- a couple of drier, sunny days with highs in the mid-80s.

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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