Wind and rain make an 'ugly scenario' Surf batters beaches, with flash flooding possible elsewhere

July 13, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers S. Mitra Kalita, Dennis O'Brien and Dail Willis contributed to this article.

Ocean City residents and businesses were bracing themselves last night for a weakened Tropical Storm Bertha that was expected to cause coastal flooding, torrential rains and wind gusts as high as 60 mph.

Most of the rest of Maryland was under flash-flood watches last night into today for the storm that was expected to track up the coast and hit Ocean City sometime this morning, with the storm center expected to pass over between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the National Weather Service said last night.

"It's a kind of ugly scenario," said Jose Marrero, a NWS forecaster at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Ocean City was awash in watches and advisories. A tropical storm warning, a heavy-surf advisory and a coastal-flood watch were issued last night. Beach erosion was expected. A tornado watch was issued for the lower Eastern Shore.

"Right now, we're forecasting seas in the 6- to 7-foot range," said NWS forecaster Gary Szatkowski. "You'll have quite a bit of wave action on top of seas that are a foot to a foot-and-a-half above normal."

The forecast for the rest of the state was for heavy rains falling overnight into this morning, with about an inch predicted for Western Maryland and rainfall amounts increasing to between 3 and 5 inches eastward. The wind was expected out of the east at up 30 mph.

Ocean City officials closed the beach to swimmers last night at 8 p.m. and were to re-evaluate the decision this morning, said Lisa Albin, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

City officials debated whether they should tell people to stay away this weekend and decided to announce at a 5: 30 p.m. news conference that visitors should merely wait to come until late afternoon, after the storm has blown over.

"What it looks like now, it's just a strong nor'easter," said Ocean City manager Dennis Dare.

Although there was concern over the approaching storm, nobody appeared to be panicking. Yesterday evening, traffic was steady along Coastal Highway and the Boardwalk had attracted plenty of strollers, many carrying umbrellas.

"We weren't going to turn around and go home," said Ron Auxt of Marysville, Pa. He and his fiance, Shellie Ward, arrived Thursday night in Ocean City for their annual beach vacation and didn't plan to let the rain spoil their holiday.

Along the coast and in marinas, boat owners and marina workers were busy yesterday afternoon battening down the hatches.

"We have a lot of people who've come down today to check their boats to make sure the lines are tied tight," said Emanuel Meritis, general manager of the Maryland Yacht Club in Anne Arundel County's Fairview Beach.

Jeff Snowddy of Bert Jabin's Boat Yard in Annapolis said about a dozen boat owners called to ask if they could dock at the marina because its location in the Severn is known as a "hurricane hole" that is usually passed over by severe storms.

Crews at the 90-slip Horne Point Marina sailed four boats from slips exposed to choppy seas to sheltered coves a few miles south of Annapolis, said manager Martin Tate. Workers made the rounds at all the marina slips, making sure that the ships, sails and any equipment on board are tied down or are as secure as possible.

"The wind shows no mercy, sir," Tate said.

At the Annapolis Sailing School, workers pulled 15 to 20 of its 50 boats out of the water and said they were keeping close watch on the storm's progress by tuning to the Weather Channel and keeping an eye on the Internet's weather services.

"If it's necessary, we'll pull more boats up, but right now we're just watching it closely," said Kathy Wood, the school's treasurer.

The Coast Guard was instructing boaters to secure loose cargo on deck and to stay off the water.

"They should be put on trailers," said Lt. Claudia Gelzer of the U.S. Coast Guard at Curtis Bay. "If that's not possible, we've been encouraging people to secure them with extra lines."

At the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton Roads, Va., the Coast Guard said it was shutting down traffic from 8 last night until 4 this morning. Ships that had been docked at Hampton Roads locations were moved to hurricane anchorage near Cape Charles.

"Other boats scheduled to arrive here have been advised to stay at sea," said Lt. Eric Washburn, chief of the investigations department at the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office in Hampton Roads.

Pub Date: 7/13/96

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