Wind blows roofs off, cuts power No injuries reported

gusts reach 55 mph

March 07, 1997|By William E. Thompson | William E. Thompson,CONTRIBUTING WRITER Sun staff writers Kris Antonelli, Mike Farabaugh, Jill Hudson and Frank Roylance contributed to this article.

Just as the rain subsided and gloomy skies cleared, volatile winds roared across the Baltimore area yesterday, leaving power outages, felled trees and damaged buildings.

Racing at Laurel was canceled, and some construction work was halted high up at the Ravens stadium site in downtown Baltimore. But power outages and damaged roofs seemed to be the biggest problem in the region. No weather-related injuries were reported.

Up to 16,000 homes were without power about 4: 30 a.m. yesterday, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman Melody Kestenbaum said. Restoring power was tricky throughout the day because outages fluctuated with the wind's speed and direction, she said.

"Just as our crews get power back on in one place, we get reports that it went out somewhere else," she said.

By early evening, fewer than 1,000 homes were without power, officials said.

Baltimore was on the southern edge of a low pressure system that intensified and then "exploded" when it met warm ocean air and colder air from Canada, said John F. Newkirk of the National Weather Service.

Winds were 35 mph or stronger most of the day. Gusts reached 53 mph at Baltimore-Washington International Airport early yesterday, and Martin Airport in Middle River reported afternoon gusts up to 55 mph.

In the city, high winds damaged a condemned three-story rowhouse at 829 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. about 5: 30 a.m.

John M. Cole, a city building inspector, said strong gusts blew through open windows on the top floor, causing the roof to cave in. That caused the collapse of an exterior wall of the house, which is at the end of a row, leaving bricks and boards strewn xTC across a vacant lot and the sidewalk.

Martin Luther King Boulevard was closed between Madison and Eutaw streets for more than five hours as a construction crew finished tearing down the top floors to make the area safe.

In Carroll County, pre-dawn gusts ripped about two-thirds of a tin roof off a Westminster apartment building yesterday. No one was injured.

Three firefighters braved the early-morning gusts to climb atop the two-story building and remove a 20-by-30-foot section of tin that was flapping over an alley to the rear of 7 Chase St.

"It was endangering electric wires and creating a major hazard," said Lt. Jay Wallace, a spokesman for the Westminster Fire Department.

Six families were able to remain in their two- and three-bedroom units as crews made repairs.

In Howard County, BGE officials reported electrical wires downed by gusts of up to 40 or 50 mph and fallen trees, causing scattered power outages early in the day.

In Baltimore County, police and fire dispatchers were kept busy with calls concerning downed trees, wires and electrical poles.

Firefighter Tim Robinson said a strong gust blew the roof off the kitchen of a house in the 6400 block of Craigmont Road in Woodlawn, and trees fell on cars on Dulaney Valley Road and on Old Frederick Road near Frederick Road.

In Anne Arundel County, the only significant damage was a smashed chimney on a house in the 2900 block of S. Water Point Road in Annapolis, said Battalion Chief Gary Sheckells.

Harford County officials reported little damage beyond felled trees and downed power lines.

At least one person was grateful for the wind.

Allen K. Smith, general superintendent of construction at the football stadium, said the wind helped dry things out so that his crew could complete tasks they had put off because of the rain, even if the wind did shut down the cranes for the day.

"I'm happy to have it: sunshine, high winds, 50-degree temperatures. It really helped dry things out," he said.

Nearby, at the American Visionary Art Museum on Key Highway, Vollis Simpson's towering 3-ton wind sculpture was fulfilling its creator's promise.

All of its propellers were spinning, the silvery windmills were turning, the old airplane was yawing, the cranks were cranking, and the cup-driven spinners were whirling clockwise and counterclockwise. And the entire contraption was swinging back and forth on its 55-foot tower like a crazed harbor crane.

"On a windy day, it'll have a ball," Simpson said when the sculpture was installed in 1995.

He was right.

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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