Heavy storms down trees, cause fires, traffic accidents in Baltimore area

47,000 lose power

truck crashes on I-95, starts fire

May 25, 1999|By Dan Thanh Dang and Dail Willis | Dan Thanh Dang and Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

A furious belt of thunderstorms moving across the Baltimore region yesterday caused power outages, traffic accidents and downed trees.

The brief but powerful storms, which began yesterday morning and ended about 4 p.m., brought heavy rains, lightning and high winds. Local police departments were swamped with reports of flooded intersections, malfunctioning traffic signals and vehicular accidents.

In the most serious storm-related incident, the driver of an empty tractor-trailer lost control of his vehicle and crashed through the jersey barrier on Interstate 95 in Halethorpe, Baltimore County. The collision ruptured the tractor's gas tank, fuel spilled across the roadway and the tank exploded.

"All four lanes were on fire," said state police Sgt. William Willis of the Golden Ring barracks. "It was a big explosion."

The driver of the tractor-trailer, Ali Ghandoura, 50, of Ottawa, Canada, was in stable condition last night with minor burns at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, state police said.

Winds of 41 mph were recorded at 2: 11 p.m. at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, said Melvin Meadows, a meteorological technician at the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. He said a maximum of 0.87 inch of rain fell yesterday in the Baltimore area.

Meadows predicted tranquil weather for the remainder of the week -- partly sunny during the day, cloudy at night, with high temperatures in the 70s and lows in the 50s.

In Baltimore County, police received 153 calls for storm-related damage -- downed trees, fires caused by lightning and flooded intersections -- from 3 p.m. to 3: 30 p.m.

"It really got crazy for a while," said county police spokesman Bill Toohey.

The Anne Arundel County EMS/Fire/Rescue received 23 calls and the Baltimore public works department 53.

About 170 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews worked late last night to restore power to 47,000 homes and businesses in the city and surrounding counties. Harford County was hit the hardest with 9,900 customers losing power, said BGE spokeswoman Brenda Pettigrew.

By 11: 30 p.m. last night, 4,700 BGE customers were without power, said a BGE spokeswoman, who added that all power should be restored by daylight.

"Sometimes, it's a matter of flipping on fuse switches while at other times, the work is more involved and lengthy, especially when it involves trees falling onto wires," she said.

Area police and fire departments said hundreds of trees were downed by the storm but no injuries or serious damage to buildings or homes were reported.

The storm's heavy rains slowed traffic across the area and cut motorists' visibility to a few feet, authorities said. Many intersections without traffic lights were manned by police officers.

In a fatal accident caused by wet roads, a 1994 Jeep Cherokee struck a guardrail on southbound Interstate 495 near Interstate 295 near Greenbelt shortly after 6 a.m., said state police in College Park. The Jeep overturned, ejecting the driver from the vehicle. John Charles Robinson, 19, of Lanham was pronounced dead at the scene, police said, adding that driver error also contributed to the accident.

In Parkton, a red Hyundai driven by Katherine Anita Brophy, 16, of the 2100 block of McComas Road slid into a school bus that was on its way to Jacksonville Elementary School, said Baltimore County police and school officials.

No students were on the bus, but the driver, Bonnie Faye Pessaro, 57, of the 900 block of Foxcroft Lane received minor injuries.

Brophy was in good condition at Sinai Hospital.

A second accident involving a school bus full of students occurred in Fullerton when a Toyota traveling south on Belair Road collided with a school bus being driven west on Putty Hill Avenue just before 3 p.m., county police reported.

Neither driver was identified late yesterday, but they received minor injuries, officials said. The bus was carrying 25 Eastern Technical High School students; one was injured. She suffered a minor head injury and was taken to Franklin Square Hospital for treatment.

A third accident involving a school bus occurred on the outer loop of the Beltway about 2:30 p.m., state police said. No students were on the bus, which collided with a tractor-trailer.

Sun staff writer Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 5/25/99

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