Floyd could hit Maryland with wind, rain, flooding

High tides, downed trees likely as weakening storm pushes through tomorrow

September 15, 1999|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Floyd is coming and he looks wild and wet.

Weather forecasters urged Marylanders yesterday to prepare for high winds, heavy rain and coastal flooding tomorrow as a weakening Floyd batters its way north across Virginia and central Maryland.

Tropical storm force winds of 40 to 50 mph -- with hurricane force gusts -- are expected, more than enough to down trees, block roads and cause widespread power outages, the National Weather Service said.

Rainfall could reach 8 inches in places as the storm passes, and surging tides could flood waterfront properties on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Late yesterday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami predicted that Floyd's track would carry it inland across central North Carolina tomorrow morning, to central Virginia by afternoon, and across central Maryland by tomorrow night.

"Although the storm will weaken considerably as it moves north, significant impacts from the storm should be expected over the mid-Atlantic region," the forecast warned.

Hurricane Floyd's track could confound the forecasts, but the weather service issued warnings to encourage Marylanders to prepare.

Jessica Brown, spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., said yesterday that the utility would make no decisions on how to gear up for Floyd until today. Although BGE's weather data did not indicate major problems for Maryland, she said, "it's very early in the game, and we'll have to wait and see. Should there be a problem, we will do the best we can to make sure everybody has service, and to get our people positioned around the area."

If the storm tracks northward between the mountains and the bay as expected, winds on its dangerous northeast quadrant will blow water up the Chesapeake and worsen high tides.

Those with properties on the Western Shore were warned to expect large, battering waves, and high tides 4 feet to 6 feet above normal. The biggest tidal surges were expected during high tides late tomorrow -- just before noon at Baltimore and just after midnight Friday morning.

Worried boat owners were ringing the phones yesterday at Mears Marina, on Back Creek in Eastport.

"We're telling them it would be helpful to take precautionary measures like removing any canvas, securing their sails and maybe double-lining their boats," said Desiree Bell, the assistant manager. "There's no harm in being prepared."

The weather service said areas along the Western Shore and on the tidal Potomac "should expect tidal effects to be greater than that experienced" during Hurricane Fran in September 1996.

Fran made a destructive landfall in North Carolina, and its remnants swept north across Virginia and Western Maryland. Winds and tidal surge forced the evacuation of homes along creeks and rivers from Southern Maryland to Anne Arundel County. Spa Creek flooded City Dock in Annapolis. Ducks swam over the promenade at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and Bowley's Quarters, in Baltimore County, was evacuated.

The amount of rainfall likely from Floyd will depend on its speed and track across the state. Forecasts ranged as high as 5 to 8 inches in 12 hours or less near the center of the storm track and to its west. Lesser amounts -- 2 to 5 inches -- were likely east of the storm track.

Flash flooding is likely in small streams and creeks tomorrow, the weather service said. Larger rivers -- running low because of the lingering drought -- will rise, but were not expected to flood.

In 1996, Fran's remnants dropped more than 5 inches of rain on parts of the state. It closed schools in five counties and pushed the Potomac River over its banks in Western Maryland, flooding many homes and businesses. In the Baltimore area, 143,000 homes lost power. Waves, wind and rain pounded bulkheads, damaged docks and flooded basements.

Pub Date: 9/15/99

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