As damage is surveyed, recovery starts

Power is restored for most

church, stores, cars are left muddy, scarred or ruined


Storm Recovery

July 09, 2004|By Matt Whittaker | Matt Whittaker,SUN STAFF

In the bright sunlight yesterday, businesses, churches and homeowners around Baltimore surveyed the damage of Wednesday's torrential downpour and began to clean up from the wind, lightning and water.

The rains sent water 40 inches deep flooding into Samuel Parker Clothier in the Mount Washington Mill Business Center, destroying an estimated $400,000 in upscale men's clothing and damaging antique armoires and shirt cases dating to the late 1800s.

"We're 100 percent lost," said owner Kenneth Himmelstein, who opened the North Baltimore store 19 months ago. Starting the business was the "realization of a lifelong dream of mine. I'm crushed. It's just devastating."

Himmelstein said an optimistic estimate is that the store, which is insured, will be open again in four to six weeks, though he fears it could take longer.

At various times, about 50,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers were without electricity - the most at any one time was 22,200 customers - but by yesterday morning that number was down to 3,500, said spokeswoman Linda Foy. Shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, the company reported 579 without power, some left over from Wednesday and others from a storm that hit Anne Arundel County yesterday afternoon.

In Baltimore County, fire dispatchers received 1,200 emergency calls during the peak five hours of the storm Wednesday, said Elise Armacost, spokeswoman for the county's Fire Department. Dispatchers usually get that number of calls over a 24-hour period.

The most serious calls that Baltimore County rescuers responded to were for a church fire in Reisterstown and the collapse of an auto body shop on Baltimore National Pike. No one was seriously injured.

At Northwest Baptist Church in Reisterstown, a construction crew used a crane yesterday to move the 22-foot steeple, giving workers a better view of a 20-foot hole and the charred remains of the roof.

The steeple, which was apparently struck by lightning during Wednesday's storm, caught fire and caused a partial collapse of the roof, Armacost said. There is also extensive smoke and water damage to the 9-year-old sanctuary's pews, stage, floor and organ, said the Rev. Gary Glanville, the church's pastor.

The church canceled a Bible Day Camp cookout scheduled for Wednesday night, and alternative plans were being explored for a wedding that had been scheduled for Saturday afternoon. The church will not be able to use the sanctuary for three months and will conduct services in the smaller old sanctuary, Glanville said.

"We're very lucky," said Shannon Egan, the senior pastor's assistant. "From the outside you wouldn't have been able to see the fire. If we hadn't been here, it probably would have burned down."

Along the bed of the Jones Falls, where the stream winds behind the historic Meadow Mill building in Woodberry, Wednesday's torrential rains and ensuing flooding left trees bent over yesterday from the force of the water that tangled brush and trash high in the branches.

A crew from the city Department of Public Works inspected possible damage to a retaining wall along the stream's banks.

In the Meadow Mill parking lot, Sue Goodman's totaled car sat crumpled against a post with about four inches of dirty water on its floor.

Floodwaters, which nearly submerged several other cars, dragged the office manager's plum-colored 1999 Saturn about 100 yards, flipped it and scraped its roof on the pavement before righting it and ramming its rear end into the post.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Pete Bois, a 25-year tow truck operator who came to pick up the car. "I can't believe the force of the water pressure."

Goodman, a volunteer hospice worker, had come by to retrieve her car registration and hospice identification card from the Saturn, which also had a shattered windshield and a dented roof.

"I saw it floating," said Goodman, adding with a laugh, "It's the cleanest the car's ever been.

"It's hard to see her go, but she went down swinging," she said as she watched the tow truck drive off with her car.

About half a foot of water poured into the flood-insured Meadow Mill Athletic Club through a loading dock, and owners Frank and Nancy Cushman lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in exercise equipment. Also severely damaged was the wood flooring of the 16 squash courts on the 35,000-square-foot first floor of the building.

"Right now we're in the process of getting cleaned out and dried out," Nancy Cushman said. "We'll be open as soon as we can."

Mud was under the bleachers yesterday at the Northwest Ice Rink in Mount Washington, where about a foot of water flooded the ice during the storm. Jeannette McGowan, 44, of Woodbrook, who ice dances there weekly, was one of the volunteers helping to clean up.

She said she came by to clear out skates, costumes and boxes that had gotten wet. "We skate here, and it's a close-knit family," McGowan said. "I didn't realize it was this bad."

Sun staff writers Seth Rosen, Julie Bykowicz and Athima Chansanchai contributed to this article.

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