Storm brings floods to Md. Hurricane's remnants cause power failures, trigger evacuations

'As bad as it gets'

Tides, wind, rain keep water levels high

branches block roads

Hurricane Fran

September 07, 1996|By Rafael Alvarez and Joe Mathews | Rafael Alvarez and Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Jay Apperson, Brenda Buote, Mike Farabaugh, Edward Lee, Howard Libit, Joe Nawrozki, Dennis O'Brien, Andrea F. Siegel and Scott Wilson contributed to this article.

Remnants of Hurricane Fran caused all sorts of trouble in Maryland yesterday -- from power outages affecting about 90,000 households to school closings and neighborhood evacuations -- as tidal floodwaters rose into the night.

No one was reported drowned, injured or missing. Winds topped 40 mph, and flash flood warnings were in effect for most of the state through the weekend.

Officials called for a voluntary evacuation of homes along the Chesapeake Bay from Southern Maryland to Anne Arundel County, and sandbags were stacked along City Dock in Annapolis. Ducks swam where tourists usually stroll at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, water rushed over the sea wall at Fort McHenry, and downed tree limbs blocked scores of roads.

Residents of the Weatherly neighborhood -- waterfront homes and trimmed lawns on the woodsy elbow formed by the Magothy River and Deep Creek -- watched the river rise steadily from 2 p.m. through twilight.

Waves, wind and rain pounded bulkheads, loosened planks and destroyed docks.

Commercial shipping lines reported business as usual at the port of Baltimore despite the high seas. A few ships headed for Baltimore docked around Annapolis to wait for the tropical storm -- which passed through the state with winds of 35 mph between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. -- to blow over.

At 1: 45 p.m., radar showed a tornado between Pleasant Valley and Mayberry in Carroll County -- which was hit hardest by the power outages -- but there was no evidence that it touched down.

Some parts of Central and Western Maryland got more than 5 inches of rain, although skies were clear along the coast as the storm took a northwesterly course through the state.

Much of the bay-area flooding was caused not by the rain but by 40-mph winds that kept waves from moving back out from the shore.

In Western Maryland, Allegany County was hardest hit by the flooding, but most residents preferred their homes to the handful of evacuation centers opened there.

The National Park Service closed all campgrounds in the C&O Canal National Historical Park from the District of Columbia to Cumberland.

The state Department of Natural Resources closed the campground at Fort Frederick State Park along the Potomac in Washington County, spokeswoman Patricia Manown said. The DNR also advised people to stay off the Potomac River all weekend.

Garrett County authorities reported several roads closed around Oakland and Kitzmiller. About a dozen roads were closed in Frederick County, mainly between Myersville and Wolfsville.

Schools in Allegany, Charles, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties closed early.

At high tide in Annapolis, about 1 p.m., Spa Creek, bloated from the storm, flooded a usually jammed parking lot with brackish water, trash and a few dead fish.

In front of Armadillo's restaurant, a cook waded in knee-deep water with an armful of sandbags.

"This is Mother Nature," said Sgt. Jim Olienyk of the Annapolis Police Department, which closed the Eastport Bridge about 11 a.m. "Every time there's a big blow and heavy rain, it gets something like this."

Tom Seibel said yesterday's flooding at Millers Island, near Edgemere, was the worst he had seen in the 10 years he has lived there.

"The second-worst was Hugo, and this is probably twice as bad," said Seibel, whose children spent the afternoon swimming in their flooded back yard.

"It's knee-deep all the way around. You're not getting a car on or off the island."

Many residents could not make it home from work, he said, and up to 200 of them were expected to spend the night at Sparrows Point High School if the water didn't recede.

High winds were holding the water in the creeks and coves, and water levels weren't expected to drop until after the next high tide.

"It's a combination of the tides and the wind, and when they're working against you, they're working against you," said Nick D'Adamo, who voluntarily left his island home for the high school.

About 50 people living in Miami Beach, near Bowleys Quarters, also chose to leave, with the help of the Baltimore County Fire Department. In Anne Arundel County, the Shady Side peninsula was closed to traffic by police, and residents were taken to Southern High School.

At the end of HarborView's South Baltimore marina, dockhand Bill Dawson and maintenance men Joe Wilson and Ed Torian rescued a South Carolina couple as 4-foot breakers spilled over Pier L.

Since leaving their home in Myrtle Beach at the beginning of August, Mike Nistal, 58, a retired executive, and his wife, Frances Dee, had been sailing north in their 53-foot cruiser, the Frances Dee.

They had spent a few days in the mouth of the Sassafras River, a Chesapeake Bay inlet, and noticed yesterday that bay breakers had increased to 2 feet. Trying this morning to find a safe place to dock, they radioed HarborView, which had a space at Pier L.

It was a 30-minute struggle to bring the boat in, as the Nistals fought wind and breakers, but the real danger was to Dawson, Wilson and Torian.

Wrapped in rain gear, the three men clutched poles as the wind threatened to push them into the harbor.

After securing the Frances Dee to the dock, Dawson said, "This is about as bad as it gets."

But it wasn't as bad as the Thanksgiving storm of 1992, "when you could paddle all the way up to Pratt Street," said Mike Jackson, general manager of the Inner Harbor paddle-boat stand.

Phones at Mid-Atlantic Waterproofing in Laurel rang incessantly, they always do under such conditions, said Charles Levine, a company spokesman.

"Out of sight, out of mind. Usually, you have to remind people how bad it can get," he said. "But this is a big reminder."

Pub Date: 9/07/96

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