Rain came, rain coming

Downpours inundate Maryland from Eastern Shore to mountains


FEDERALSBURG -- With every step yesterday, brown water oozed out of the living room carpet of Jackie Sharpley's modest two-story home in this Eastern Shore town. Flies swarmed in a room that smelled like a wet wool sweater.

"The whole downstairs completely has to be replaced because of mold and water damage." she said. "Everything just stinks. It stinks."

Sharpley and her friend Vaughn Summers had fans roaring and the air conditioning turned as high as it would go as they tried to dry out their flooded home - hoping to take advantage of a narrow window between the weekend deluge and the renewed soaking predicted for today and the rest of the week.

Sharpley and Summers were two of the many Marylanders on both sides of the Bay Bridge trying to dry out after hurricane-level rains - minus the wind - raked across Maryland on Sunday and early yesterday.

Intermittent downpours continued to pelt the saturated state throughout yesterday - contributing to one highway fatality in Prince George's County, disrupting train travel, flooding communities, knocking out phones and power, felling trees and closing roads throughout the region.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. had sent damage assessment teams to Caroline and Dorchester counties to see whether the area might qualify for federal disaster assistance.

The lone death linked to the storms occurred about 4 p.m. near Bowie, when a car driven by 43-year-old Mary Leslie Griffin hydroplaned in the wet westbound lanes of U.S. 50 near Route 197, overturned and hit a center-median guardrail, said State Police Cpl. Mark Cummings.

Griffin, of Silver Spring, was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.

The National Weather Service warned that the coming days could bring more flooding as rivers top their banks. The next day without a thunderstorm in the local forecast: Monday.

The persistent rains are the result of what Accuweather.com meteorologist John Gresiak called "an atmospheric traffic jam" caused by a high-pressure system immobilized over the Atlantic "like a jack-knifed tractor-trailer." Behind it is stuck a low-pressure system that just keeps raining and raining in a band running from Maine to Florida.

Gresiak said it's the kind of weather event that occurs about once or twice a decade.

That's about once or twice too often for Sharpley, who said she went to bed Saturday night without a drop of rain falling and awoke Sunday morning to the sound of emergency workers warning her and her neighbors to evacuate their low-lying neighborhood near Marshyhope Creek.

She and Summers were able to return by late afternoon Sunday - but what they found didn't make them happy. The rain had flooded the crawl space and seeped through the first-floor carpet.

"Water bugs, critters of all sorts, just came in." she said.

The weather system that drenched this Caroline County town is creating havoc up and down the East Coast. Maryland is right at the center of the action, with recorded 24-hour rainfalls exceeding 10 inches in at least one location. Many parts of the state received a month's worth of rain in a day.

The result was a transportation nightmare. Dozens of state roads and countless local roads were closed by flooding.

Dave Buck, a spokesman for the State Highway Administration, said the storm's effect on road travel would be 9 on a scale of 10.

"It's equivalent to when a hurricane comes through in terms of road impact." he said.

In Baltimore, some streets were closed by flooding during the early morning hours yesterday but most were open by rush hour, according to city Transportation Department spokesman David Brown.

Brown said the Jones Falls topped its banks in places - flooding out parts of Clipper Mill Road and Union Avenue - but then receded. He said that while the stream's waters got close to the Jones Falls Expressway, the JFX didn't need to be closed.

The disruption extended to rail travel. In Washington, parts of which received about 7 inches of rain over 24 hours, Metro service disruptions sent hundreds of morning rush hour commuters into the streets to catch shuttle buses or walk to their offices on a muggy, overcast morning.

MARC train service on the Camden and Brunswick lines was canceled for both the morning and evening commutes yesterday because of downed trees, flooding, signal problems and stopped freight trains on the CSX-owned tracks. Service on the Amtrak- owned Penn line operated on a modified schedule.

The Maryland Transit Administration said MARC service was expected to be back to normal today - subject to any serious impact from more heavy rains during the night.

According to Cheryl Stewart, a spokeswoman for Baltimore- Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, there were scattered delays and cancellations of incoming flights yesterday into the evening hours.

Passengers arriving in the very early morning hours yesterday encountered hours-long delays finding ground transportation.

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