Storm brings flooding to region

Roads under water, accidents make for a difficult commute

September 29, 2004|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Remnants of Hurricane Jeanne swirled through Maryland yesterday -- the winds greatly diminished, but clouds packing enough moisture to drop as much as 5 inches of rain in parts of metropolitan Baltimore.

The storm flooded roads, snarled traffic with rain-related accidents and created a chaotic evening commute.

But unlike the recently departed Ivan and a visit earlier this month from what was left of Frances -- and far removed from the disasters wreaked on Florida by four September hurricanes -- Tropical Depression Jeanne was largely a soggy inconvenience here.

"The biggest story here is the precipitation," said Jim Lee, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. "We have reports of anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of rainfall, with Washington and Frederick counties getting the most rain."

No serious injuries were reported, but at least three people were rescued from cars trapped in rising waters -- including an unidentified woman who was stranded about 6 p.m. as she tried to exit northbound Interstate 83 at Freeland Road in northern Baltimore County, state police said.

Washington County officials reported two people were rescued when their vehicle went into a drainage ditch.

In Solomons Island in southern Calvert County, a barn and a visitors center were damaged by a possible tornado, while to the northeast in Delaware, a twister touched down near New Castle County Airport, authorities reported.

Late last night, officials reported serious flooding in the northern reaches of Baltimore County and warned motorists to use precaution when they take to the roads this morning.

"Just because the rain is over doesn't mean this problem is over," said Elise Armacost, a county spokeswoman.

Initially, property damage appeared minimal -- although people in flood-prone areas kept a wary eye on rising water in area streams.

In Annapolis, where some businesses sustained major water damage when Tropical Storm Isabel blew up the bay last year, city officials reported minor flooding in the City Dock area. At 6:30 p.m., police had closed some nearby streets and warned motorists to proceed with caution. Three hours later, all but the main parking lot at City Dock had reopened.

Mark Borsch, 49, of Bristol, Tenn., who docked his charter boat at City Dock, kept tabs on the rising waters yesterday. "The tide was supposed to be falling after 5 o'clock, but actually, that water kept rising," he said.

In Frederick County, officials reported more than 20 road closures because of rising water and many rain-related traffic accidents. In Washington County the story was much the same, with officials reporting at least 17 roads closed by flooding.

Flooding also temporarily shut down the northern end of Baltimore's light rail system.

Power outages were a problem for at least 14,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers, with Baltimore County the hardest hit, a spokeswoman said.

Downgraded from hurricane to tropical depression after slamming Florida over the weekend, Jeanne veered north Monday. Weather forecasters predicted that the center of the storm would track slightly south of the Baltimore region, but they were wrong, Lee said.

"From a positional standpoint, Jeanne ended up being a bit further north than we thought," he said. "But from an impact standpoint, [the shift] really didn't matter."

Rainfall predictions for the region were on target, with 1.2 inches at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, 2.9 inches in Annapolis, 3 inches in Ellicott City, and 4.1 inches in Towson.

In Washington and Frederick counties, where the brunt of the storm hit, weather forecasters predicted 3 to 6 inches of rain. Rainfall totals for those regions were not available last night.

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner declared a state of emergency for his state after the storm dropped as much as 12 inches of rain in some sections -- with the western part of the state among the hardest hit. Many roads became rivers.

The Delaware tornado appeared to have hit about 4:15 p.m. It tipped over a cargo plane, ripped roofs off nearby businesses and lifted a car off Route 141, authorities said. But no serious injuries were reported.

"It is a mess. Storms like this are not supposed to happen in Delaware. They're supposed to happen out in the Midwest somewhere," said Cpl. Trinidad Navarro, a New Castle County police spokesman.

The Associated Press and Sun staff writers Richard Irwin, Laura Barnhardt, Frank D. Roylance and Norm Gomlak contributed to this article.

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