Maryland nears wet-year record Rainfall: Several days of precipitation lead to overflowing streams, flooded roads and scattered power outages.

December 14, 1996|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers TaNoah Morgan, Donna R. Engle and Frank D. Roylance contributed to this article.

Rainy weather that has made Baltimore seem more like soggy Seattle established 1996 as the third-wettest year since meteorologists began keeping totals in 1871 and pushed the city to within 5 inches of the rainfall record.

The all-time soggiest year was 1889, when 62.35 inches of precipitation fell in the Baltimore area. This year, Baltimore-Washington International Airport would have to get 4.83 inches more before New Year's Day to claim the title.

Not everyone is hoping that it'll get there.

Especially not in Carroll County, one of the areas hardest hit yesterday. By 4 p.m., 2 1/2 inches of rain had fallen, saturating the ground and flooding streets and basements.

Creeks and streams in the Big Pipe Creek watershed overran their banks. Fourteen roads were closed.

Union Bridge Mayor Perry Jones said Little Pipe Creek was flooded at the north end of town. "We have a couple feet of water across the road," he said. "The road is closed, and people are having to take the long way in and out of town."

The culprit for this latest spate of wet weather is an area of low pressure that tapped into moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, said Dave Thede, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sterling, Va.

"It could have been worse," he said. "It could have been snow."

The rain began falling intermittently Wednesday and grew more intense as the days passed. The hardest rains moved through the area yesterday as 2.66 inches fell, bringing total precipitation in Baltimore for 1996 to 57.52 inches as of 10 p.m.

"The rain will be slow to move out," Thede said last night. "We expect some drizzle [today], but the heavy rains will end within the next couple of hours."

It seems that low pressure accounted for most of the moisture this year. A persistent trough of low pressure over the eastern United States caused storms and hurricanes that dropped 15.63 inches of rain at BWI during the three summer months. That is 4.32 inches, or about 38 percent, above normal for that period.

Add to that the Blizzard of 1996, which delivered the snowiest January on record, and it's no surprise that precipitation levels are pushing the envelope.

Yesterday's rain was mainly an inconvenience.

Carroll County officials and state police in Westminster had not received reports of major problems by 6 p.m.

"There were no evacuations, no rescues, and the rain is subsiding," said George Thomas, assistant director of emergency management. "The fire service responded to a couple of flooded basements -- that's all."

Carroll was under a flood warning until 7 p.m. and a flood watch until 9 p.m., Thomas said.

Throughout the day, the National Weather Service issued flood warnings for much of Maryland and Delaware, predicting as much as 2 1/2 inches of rain into the night and more expected today.

Hampstead had a state high, 2.64 inches of rain by 5: 30 p.m.

The rain was enough to frustrate some commuters, who were forced to weave their way around closed roads during the evening rush hour.

In Anne Arundel County, half a dozen roads were closed. Dorsey Road between Interstate 97 and Route 648 was closed about 3 p.m. yesterday, when Saw Mill Creek overflowed its banks and left two feet of standing water on the roadway.

State Highway Administration road crews directed motorists to Route 3 to downtown Glen Burnie.

"We have crews out, working to clean out drainage pipes and divert water from roadways," said Valerie Burnette Edgar, an SHA spokeswoman. "We're just hoping motorists are careful because with all this rain, there'll be a lot of standing water on the roads."

The steady rain made the drive home hazardous for some.

"We've had some minor fender-benders on Interstate 95 due to the heavy traffic and weather," said Maryland State Police Sgt. Barry Janney of the JFK barracks in Cecil County. "People are trying to merge and can't see very well because of the rain."

Six accidents were reported on I-95 during the rush hour yesterday, Janney said.

The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reported that 2,300 customers lost electric power yesterday because of the weather. According to Nancy Kaplan, a company spokeswoman, most of the problems had been resolved by 8 p.m.

"There's only a couple dozen customers still without power," she said. "Crews are out working on the lines now."

The rain also delayed the season opening of the Dominic "Mimi" DiPietro Family Skating Center in Patterson Park.

The outdoor ice rink will open at 3 p.m. today, said Allen Cassell of the city Department of Recreation and Parks. Santa Claus will be on hand to welcome everyone and skate to holiday music.

Elsewhere in Baltimore, residents were doing their best to cope.

Duane E. Tressler, a lifelong resident of Curtis Bay, had placed two buckets in his window to protect his kitchen from water damage.

"I have a small leak over the back porch that's becoming a major problem," Tressler said. "I'm going to call a roofer as soon as things dry out. I don't like looking at peeling wallpaper and falling plaster."

Pub Date: 12/14/96

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