High winds fell trees, knock out power

Buildings are damaged and streets blocked

May 04, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin and Julie Bykowicz | Jennifer McMenamin and Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Diane Mackereth was watching 10.5, NBC's miniseries about a monstrous earthquake threatening the West Coast, when it seemed as if her television's volume suddenly surged. She turned down the volume, but the roaring continued.

"It sounded like a train coming through," Mackereth said. "Two seconds later, it was calm enough to hear a pin drop. That's why we were wondering whether it was a twister."

Tree services, utility workers and road crews crisscrossed the area yesterday, cleaning up after the brief but powerful storm that swept through parts of Baltimore City and Carroll, Baltimore and Harford counties Sunday evening.

Mackereth, 50, a hospital worker who lives in the Chartley neighborhood of Reisterstown, had to deal with two trees that fell in her back yard, including one that crashed into her modest ranch-style house, depriving her of electricity until 2 p.m.

By yesterday evening, about 9,500 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers were still without power, including 3,600 in Baltimore County and 5,600 in the city. About 62,000 households had been affected, BGE officials said.

Road crews continued to work on Cromwell Bridge Road, which was closed because of a downed tree between Loch Raven Boulevard and Cub Hill Road in Carney, disrupting yesterday's morning and evening commutes for residents who use the twisting two-lane road to reach the Baltimore Beltway.

Power outages closed Dundalk Middle, Hampton Elementary, Parkville Middle, Powhatan Elementary and Reisterstown Elementary schools in Baltimore County, and Edgewood Elementary, Windsor Hills Elementary and Walbrook High in the city.

Officials from both school systems said they expected all schools to be open today.

The windstorm also damaged utility lines at Carroll County's Winfield Elementary, which opened yesterday morning without power or water. Classes continued, and crews restored utilities by midday.

Winds took out a wall at the South Carroll Sports Arena in Eldersburg about 9 p.m. Sunday during a women's soccer game. No one was injured.

In Bel Air, a tree crashed onto the roof of the Parks and Recreation Department's headquarters, closing the Tollgate Road building and causing an estimated $80,000 to $100,000 in damage, county spokeswoman Merrie Street said.

Felled trees from Harford County's Winters Run Golf Course to the Howard Park neighborhood of Bel Air closed a section of the Ma & Pa hiking and biking trail.

"It's a line - not really wide - of trees, limbs and leaves," said Street, adding that the trail would reopen within three days.

David Manning, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Sunday night's thunderstorms were accompanied by straight-line winds of more than 60 mph.

"At this point, there's no indication that the wind damage was caused by a tornado," he said, adding that straight-line winds can cause more damage than a tornado.

In Kingsville, in northeastern Baltimore County, longtime resident James Michel said he lost 50 to 60 trees, including dozens of white pines, a towering oak and a 100-foot tall poplar that reminded him of a cathedral.

"It looks like a meat grinder came through here," the 74-year-old said of his 20 acres. "I used to have all these walking paths and used to be able to go around in my golf cart. I'd need 10 bulldozers with a crane to do anything back there now."

Georgio Velaetis, 55, a mechanic with General Electric Co., was in his house just across Stoney Batter Road when the 100-foot tree came down.

"You see, it got old, like an old man," he said, pointing to the blackened roots on one side of the 10-foot-high root ball. "It was not strong enough for this storm."

The damage, which littered nearby roads with limbs and branches, meant brisk business for John Barker, who runs the Greenwood Deli in a century-old building near Glen Arm that opened as a tollhouse on Harford Road.

"This is the biggest rush I've seen since I opened the place," said Barker, red-faced and out of hamburger patties after serving more than three dozen utility workers over a frantic two-hour stretch. "I think I made enough that I can get off early."

Sun staff writers Sandy Alexander, Lane Harvey Brown, Mary Gail Hare, Molly Knight, Sara Neufeld and Tanika White contributed to this article.

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