Violent storms careen across Maryland

80,000 without power in Baltimore region

May 14, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

A line of violent thunderstorms raced across Maryland yesterday evening, sparking dozens of fires, critically injuring a Carroll County woman and knocking out power to more than 80,000 homes and businesses in the Baltimore region.

The widespread storms turned the sky black as sheets of wind-whipped rain and golf ball-sized hail were illuminated by streaks of lighting. They also spawned several funnel clouds and wind gusts to 70 mph that sent trees crashing into homes in the city and blew down fences in Middle River.

National Weather Service forecasters will examine the damage today to determine whether tornadoes touched down.."This is fairly typical for a spring event. You tend to get hail, wind damage," said Jim Wiesmueller, a forecaster at the weather service field office in Sterling, Va. "This is getting into the peak of the severe season."

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether weather conditions were a factor in two plane crashes yesterday afternoon, one of which claimed the life of a 53-year-old Virginia man.

The storms also caused scores of traffic accidents, and traffic was stalled in several areas when downed trees blocked roadways.

The first major thunderstorm trekked across northern Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties about 5 p.m., snapping trees and producing hail up to 2 inches in diameter. A second line of storms - which stretched from Pennsylvania to North Carolina - moved across Baltimore about 7:30 p.m.

Mike Delaney, a spokesman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., said the more than 80,000 customers who were without power were scattered across the region, including 25,000 in Baltimore and 13,500 in Baltimore County."I think the whole mid-Atlantic region took it hard," Delaney said. "We will be working all night to hopefully have the power restored."

He said BGE might not have power fully restored until later today. The bulk of outages, Delaney added, were caused when lighting struck power transformers.

Lighting also critically injured a 40-year-old Carroll County woman. Police said she was struck about 3:15 p.m. while standing in the front yard of her home in the 5800 block of Leslie Lane in Mount Airy.

The woman, whom police declined to identify, , suffered internal injuries and burns to her hands and feet. She was transported to Frederick Memorial Hospital.

Baltimore County firefighters, assisted by city fire units, were battling a blaze last night at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Woodlawn.

The fire appeared to have started in the roof as the storms were passing across the area, fire officials said, but it was unclear whether it was weather-related. Structure fires, all believed to have been started by lighting, were reported in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Harford, Queen Anne's and Prince George's counties.

Although the worst damage appeared to have been by downed trees in the Edgewood and Joppatowne neighborhoods of Harford County - where a funnel cloud was reported about 5:30 p.m. - officials said the area overall escaped major harm."Actually, it was rather quiet for us. We had a lot of minor things, but nothing really major happened considering the severity of the big storms," said Lt. Bob Rose, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

But about 5:05 p.m., an Arlington, Va., man was killed in Carroll County when his home-built, woodenplane crashed in a field near KeymarAirport in 1500 block of Francis Scott Key Highway in Taneytown.

Sharon Eiler, a spokeswoman for the Taneytown Volunteer Fire Department, said fire units, the Maryland State Police and Carroll County sheriff's deputies were called to the airport after witnesses reported seeing the plane go down. Witnesses reported the aircraft was attempting to maneuver up when it suddenly nose-dived into the ground.

The man, who was not identified, , was pronounced dead at the scene.

Eiler said the accident occurred about an hour before a thunderstorm moved across the airport. But Cynthia Brown, a spokesman for the state police, said weather was probably not a factor."It looks like the plane itself may be a factor," Brown said.

But the weather service reported strong, upper-level winds across the area yesterday afternoon so authorities are investigating.

Strong winds are believed to have contributed to a second plane crash yesterday afternoon in Harford County that left a Gaithersburg man seriously injured, authorities said.

Lt. Steven Bodway, a spokesman for the Harford County Fire Department, said Michael William Gugulis, 50, was trying to land his single-engine Cessna about 2:15 p.m. when he radioed that he was experiencing wind gusts.

After he landed, he was transported to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was listed in critical condition.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.