Violent storms cause outages, flooding in Central Maryland

Lightning is suspected as cause of at least two major fires

June 02, 2006|By NICOLE FULLER AND RICHARD IRWIN | NICOLE FULLER AND RICHARD IRWIN,SUN REPORTERS

Violent thunderstorms swept across much of Central Maryland last night, bringing heavy rain, high winds and lightning that disrupted power, caused sporadic flooding and was suspected as the cause of at least two major fires, authorities said.

A spokesman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said about 50,000 customers in the region lost power.

"We had a couple of storm cells with heavy winds and lighting strikes," said BGE spokesman Robert L. Gould.

The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning for the city and Baltimore County, and estimated that up to 3 inches of rain fell in some areas.

A three-alarm fire displaced about 20 residents from a condominium building in the first block of Juliet Lane in Perry Hall after lighting hit the roof, said Glenn Blackwell, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Fire Department. No residents were hurt, but two firefighters were treated for minor injuries, he said.

The fire started about 7:15 p.m. and was under control by about 8:40 p.m. It caused about $800,000 in damage. The Red Cross was assisting residents with housing last night, Blackwell said.

Retiree Nancy McDade, 70, who lives in the next building in the complex, said she heard a series of loud booms as she sat in her living room. She went out on her front balcony and saw fire coming from the roof next door.

"I knew it was lighting as soon as I heard that boom," McDade said.

Bill Mould, a spokesman for Howard County Fire and Rescue, said about 65 firefighters responded to a two-alarm blaze at Baltimore First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ellicott City. No one was injured.

A group of kindergarten children and their parents were in another area of the building holding a graduation ceremony at the church's school when the fire began about 8:30 p.m.

The fire might have started when lightning struck the roof of the church in the 3200 block of St. Johns Lane, Mould said.

"We have not been able to confirm that; certainly, people have been speculating that," Mould said. "About 50 percent of the roof in the sanctuary part of the church has been burned."

Marvel Boggess, wife of the church's pastor, the Rev. Ben Boggess, and a teacher at the school, said the fire heavily damaged the sanctuary and the church's foyer but spared the school.

"It was huge," she said. "I called our neighbors; they looked out and saw it too. It was just a blaze, like a huge sunset, like an orange sunset."

She said two members of the church were to be married there Sunday.

"The people that wanted the wedding said, `We'll still have it here. We'll have it in the parking lot if we have to,'" the pastor's wife said.

The storms also delayed the Orioles game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays game at Camden Yards and cut short the monthly First Thursday concert at Mount Vernon Place sponsored by WTMD-FM, routing hundreds of people who had been listening to music in the park next to the Washington Monument.

Chief Kevin Cartwright, public information officer for the Baltimore Fire Department, was a victim of the storm as heavy rain flooded his basement.

"There was just a heavy, heavy downpour," said Cartwright, who lives in Northeast Baltimore. "Within minutes it started raining harder and harder.

"When my wife went down in the basement, she noticed water was seeping through the basement door," Cartwright said. "And I opened the door, and gosh, it came. Water continued to flow through the bottom of the basement door."

A neighbor's car was damaged when a tree fell on it, he said.

Among the areas affected by power disruptions was Arundel Mills mall, which was without electricity for about 15 minutes, said a manager at Dave and Buster's, an entertainment venue and restaurant there.nicole.fuller@baltsun.com richard.irwin@baltsun.com

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