Memories by the torrent

Floyd: The storm's visit to Maryland was sometimes life-threatening, sometimes funny, always wet and inconvenient.

September 17, 1999|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

Timmy Hicks barely made it out alive in Southern Maryland. Bandits stole sandbags from storefronts in Annapolis. Hundreds of rats were flushed from their flooded holes in South Baltimore. A small school of carp flopped around an Easton golf course.

And when a Coast Guard cutter limped into the Inner Harbor after dodging Hurricane Floyd at sea yesterday, members of the crew had a key question as the busiest month of the Atlantic storm season draws to a close and the baseball pennant races begin in earnest: "Did the Mets win?"

As Floyd whipped across Maryland yesterday, the hurricane left behind tales of life being lived a little less ordinary in the wind and rain, and hype of a hurricane that talked the talk but never did take the walk of its bigger and badder cousins -- Andrew, Hugo and Agnes.

Here are some of the yarns spun from the path of Hurricane Floyd: For Timmy Hicks, Floyd brought nothing but bad luck.

The former construction worker from Great Mills in St. Mary's County decided yesterday was as good a day as any to tune up his run-down Lincoln Continental. So he and his girlfriend, Jan Casey, hopped in the car and headed down Flatiron Road to see the mechanic.

"There was a patch of water, but it didn't look like it was deep water, and we almost made it," Hicks said.

Almost.

The Lincoln was swept into a ditch roiling with rain run off. The water rising and the electric windows not working, Hicks and Casey thought they were through.

But a volunteer firefighter, James Gardiner, spotted the couple, tossed them a line, and with the help of a passerby, pulled the pair to safety.

"They were within about 30 seconds of being under water," Gardiner said.

The couple's luck, like the weather, didn't get much better. They found out their first-floor apartment was under water.

Sandbag war in Annapolis

At the Annapolis City Dock, store owners were fighting a "sandbag war."

To battle the rising tide and possible storm surge, the city handed out 2,000 sandbags to store owners and residents, but they ran out at 8 a.m. yesterday. Store managers and clerks in the low-lying area spent much of Wednesday sealing their outside walls with plastic wrap and creating sandbag barricades.

But the shortage soon created trouble. Someone stole the sandbags stacked up outside Starbucks Coffee on Dock Street Wednesday night.

"We ought to have a cop with a shotgun guarding sandbags," Annapolis city spokesman Thomas W. Roskelly said.

Kristina Randall, assistant manager at Einstein Brothers Bagels, said sandbag thievery began Wednesday afternoon when store clerks saw people loading up their cars and trucks along Dock Street.

"This guy came in a truck and just took about 10 away, and the lady from Juice It Up yelled, `Hey, those belong to someone,' but they took them anyway," she said.

Brooke Eader, manager of a novelty store called the Big Iguana, posted a guard over her sandbags yesterday. His name is Derek Deneke, and he's 6-feet-2.

"I don't think they're going to mess with him," Eader said.

When it rains, it floats

With the day off, Daniel Mitchell drove around Baltimore, searching for scenes of spectacular storm damage. He admired an uprooted tree along Waterview Avenue, spied a washed-out bridge on Maisel Street near Morrell Park, and marveled at Used Car Heaven -- a lot near Interstate 95 -- where half of the inventory was submerged.

But the rats were a sight he's sure to remember. Hundreds of them, flushed from their holes near Harbor Hospital in South Baltimore, were scurrying around the rising Middle Branch River.

"It's amazing what you can see," Mitchell said.

There was an equally amazing sight at the Easton Club Golf Course on the Eastern Shore. By midday, ponds on the property started to overflow.

"We had carp coming down Clubhouse Drive," Easton Police Chief George M. Harvey said.

But for the fish, Hurricane Floyd meant freedom. The flood sent them cascading into the Tred Avon River.

Yes, the Mets won

Two Coast Guard cutters from the Carolinas -- the Elm and the Madrona -- spent yesterday docked at Broadway Pier in Fells Point after escaping Floyd's winds and waves. Ensign Sean Mitchell of the Madrona said the 180-foot buoy tender had left its base at Charleston, S.C., to avoid damage from the coming hurricane.

They tried to make port at Portsmouth, Va., but a change in Floyd's path made that too risky. So they headed up the Chesapeake, reaching Baltimore's port at 9: 30 p.m. Wednesday.

With the baseball pennant races heating up, the executive officer of the ship, a native New Yorker, had a question for a visitor as he stepped from the Coast Guard cutter:

"Did the Mets win?"

They did, 10-5 over the Colorado Rockies, gaining ground on the first-place Atlanta Braves.

Food for a hurricane

The worst of Hurricane Floyd hadn't hit when the lunch break came at Carroll County's Emergency Operations Center. Dave Nelson slipped into the kitchen to prepare a treat for the four-person crew.

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