Weakened Floyd does little harm

Rain, downed trees and power lines are left in storm's wake

Schools may close today

Flooding is minor

drought credited with mitigating impact

September 17, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Hurricane Floyd swept through Carroll County in weakened condition yesterday, dumping about 4.5 inches of rain and disrupting the evening rush hour with fallen trees and wires, but causing only minor flooding and power outages for a few thousand residents.

With schools closed, parents and kids jammed the movie theater at Cranberry Mall during the day. Some grocery stores reported "snow scare" shopping raids. Parents of schoolchildren scrambled to make child-care arrangements.

Schools could be closed again today because of flooding, officials said. A decision will be made this morning.

If even a few high-water problems prevent children from getting to school, the whole system might have to be shut down another day, school spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said. "All it takes is one or two areas of the county when it's bad," she said.

County residents were relieved that the effect of the storm wasn't worse. And some even offered thanks to another recent weather problem -- the drought -- because water levels were unusually low when the storm began Wednesday.

"This is one time I can say `Thank God for the drought,' " said Roger Holcomb, whose horses had to be rescued when the Monocacy River flooded his farm in Taneytown three years ago.

The heavy rains may spell the end of a water ban imposed June 1 on South Carroll. The county commissioners will decide Monday, when they receive a drought report from administrators.

Winds of 46 mph were recorded in the Millers area by Bobby Miller, a longtime weather observer. Herb Close Jr., also an amateur weather observer, registered gusts of 46 mph in the Manchester area, while Larry Myers, an observer in Westminster, registered peak gusts at 22 mph.

As the worst of the storm passed through the county at 6: 30 p.m., Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. officials said 351,000 customers experienced power outages in the region, including 7,100 in Carroll.

Troopers at the Westminster barracks worked overtime to assist rush-hour motorists thwarted by fallen wires and trees blocking at least 10 roads, mostly in the eastern part of the county, said 1st Sgt. Eric Danz.

Emergency crews scrambled in late afternoon to remove branches and trees blocking roads. Standing water on roads near the Baltimore and Frederick county lines caused problems throughout the day.

At Streaker Road near Old Washington Road in South Carroll, county workers had to cut up a tree that was 4 feet in diameter before the road could be reopened.

At the Carroll County Emergency Operations Center in Westminster, a computer malfunction temporarily left officials without a way to track the storm.

They had to make do with periodic glimpses of Floyd's path by watching the the Weather Channel on cable television until Mike Valentine, a dispatcher, dialed to his home computer for a satellite view of the hurricane's track.

The cause of the center's computer problem was a "bad video card," said Redman; a rush order was placed for a replacement.

George Thomas, assistant director of emergency management for the county, said not having the weather radar was only a minor annoyance because the system has telephone links to state emergency management officials in Pikesville as a backup.

In low-lying Union Bridge, all eyes were on Little Pipe Creek, which cut off all four entrances to the town during Tropical Storm Agnes.

The creek rose and ran like a river yesterday, but didn't jump its banks. And the message from residents was this: Floyd was no Agnes.

Many remember when that 1972 storm flooded the town and destroyed many businesses.

"It would have to put down a lot more rain" before anything flooded, said Mike Bangs, a cabinetmaker at Creative Design Interiors, a Main Street business beside the creek.

Bangs was wearing hip boots and standing in ankle-deep water beside the parking lot to check a pump that keeps the lot from flooding.

Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. remembered Agnes sending creek waters flowing higher than the 8-foot door of his service station. Jones said the town did nothing special to prepare for Floyd. Residents all know when the creek is ready to flood. "When we see it coming, we pick up our stuff and move it to high ground," he said.

Still, there was a grocery store rush. At Myers IGA, grocery manager Tony Nichols was celebrating after an onslaught Wednesday.

"We had the best Wednesday in months," he said. "It's a snow scare -- milk, bread, toilet paper and lunch meat."

The small town of Detour, which was nearly destroyed by hurricanes Agnes and Eloise in the 1970s, also weathered Floyd easily.

"It wasn't [a] downpour, like the ones that flood Detour," said Donald Dayhoff, a resident who spent the day watching television weather reports. "This was nothing but some rain compared to Agnes."

Located on the far western edge of the county where Little and Big Pipe creeks join to form Double Pipe Creek, the town was watched closely by county authorities throughout the day.

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