Snow, rain, winds batter Maryland Power outages, evacuations reported

January 29, 1998|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Edward Lee and community correspondent Melinda Rice contributed to this article.

Mother Nature hit Maryland with a double-barreled blast yesterday, dumping 1 1/2 feet of snow on Western Maryland and lashing the Eastern Shore with winds and rain that cut power, closed roads and forced residents to evacuate.

The storm hit hardest in Ocean City, where rains and wind gusts of up to 70 mph pounded the boardwalk, washed away part of the beach and turned streets into canals.

Richard Bayles, Ocean City's assistant director of emergency management, said about 30 streets in the resort's downtown were closed by a storm that tore siding and roofs off many homes and businesses.

Residents of a 12-unit condominium over the Sinepuxent Bay between Seventh and Eighth streets were evacuated when the water rose to floor level, officials said.

"The ocean is still wreaking havoc down here," Bayles said last night as 16-foot seas washed up to the boardwalk's edge.

Clay Stamp, Ocean City's director of emergency management, said the storm was expected to head north and leave Maryland tonight and that clear skies were forecast for today.

"The worst of it's behind us," Stamp said.

Bayles said that city inspectors were surveying homes and businesses last night and that many residences, shops, piers and boats were badly damaged.

"This is the nastiest Northeaster that we've had since the fall of 1996," said Jay Mason, a spokesman for Delmarva Power and Light Co.

Mason said that 2,500 Eastern Shore customers lost power.

Another 1,500 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers in Anne Arundel, Carroll and Howard counties and Baltimore City lost power as heavy rains and wind felled trees and power lines, said John Schropp, a BGE spokesman. Schropp said power was expected to be restored to all BGE customers by midnight.

Heavy snow in Western Maryland cut power to 200 Allegany Power Co. customers in Oakland, Cumberland and Frederick, said Mary Lynn Sacco, a utility spokeswoman.

But she said that the storm caused its most serious damage for the utility in nearby West Virginia, where up to 20 inches of snow fell yesterday.

Highway officials closed roads in Baltimore City and in Anne Arundel, Howard, Frederick, Queen Anne's, Worcester and Wicomico counties because of flooding and downed trees.

Steve Zubrick, a National Weather Service forecaster, said 1 inch of rain fell at Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday.

Temperatures in the Baltimore area were expected to reach the low to mid-50s today with partly sunny skies and diminishing winds, Zubrick said.

He said that a warm front from the Gulf of Mexico kept temperatures in the mid-30s yesterday, which prevented the rains from turning into snow on the Eastern Shore and in the Baltimore area.

"It's typical weather for this time of year except that we were lucky we didn't have the cold temperatures because that would have meant snow," Zubrick said.

But up to 18 inches of snow fell rain Western Maryland.

State police declared snow emergencies in Garrett and Allegany counties, but reported no major accidents.

"Now we've got fog but the roads are clear of snow," said Sgt. Wayne Paugh, a state police spokesman in McHenry, a Garrett County community that got 15 inches of snow.

State police lifted the snow emergency in Garrett County at noon yesterday.

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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