A rescue, evacuations and worries

June 28, 2006|By JILL ROSEN | JILL ROSEN,SUN REPORTER

While the latest angry storm to thrash across Maryland revealed a few more of its dirty tricks last night, property owners in the state's low-lying areas tried to keep their spirits high.

Even as people across the state watched weather reports and hoped that this wouldn't be another Isabel or Ivan, in a matter of seconds the storm showed it had just that kind of furious potential. Water burst from a rushing creek, quickly trapping a Mount Airy woman inside her home with her granddaughter.

When Amber Pickett, 16, arrived yesterday afternoon at her grandparents' home, near a feeder creek for the Patapsco, water was streaming into the backyard.

Twenty minutes later, the water had surrounded the house. Overwhelming the towels Amber and her grandmother, Dawn Arnold, stuffed under the doors, soon it was up to the teen's knees.

"We were running amok through the home," said Arnold, a Howard County bus driver. "My granddaughter was hysterical."

Amber called her father, who called 911. Rescuers arrived in a boat about 7 p.m.

"We're lucky to be alive," Arnold said.

Officials in Anne Arundel County, fearing just that kind of trouble, went door-to-door in the Brockbridge Road area distributing fliers in English and Spanish. In either language the message was the same: Get to a safer place.

Last night, about 44 people, with three cats and a dog, took them up on that, moving into the Maryland City Fire Department.

Ted Johnson, a 42-year-old truck driver, left his Parkway Village mobile home with water pooling around its porch, just feet from the Patuxent River. With Scrabble, Yahtzee and a deck of cards to entertain himself, he figured he'd be at the shelter for at least two days.

In Harford County, where officials took the same better-safe-than-sorry approach, a shelter was ready at Bel Air's Harford Technical High School. Though it had no takers by evening, the gym was equipped for as much coziness as possible with blankets, Pringles and bagels.

"We're in it for the long haul," said Wendell G. Baxter, the county's Red Cross disaster volunteer coordinator.

About the same time, in Annapolis, two city workers with a truck full of sandbags surveyed the high waters from the parking lot of City Dock.

Yong Kim, owner of Ninja Cafe, wasn't taking any chances -- he piled 20 of the sandbags in front of the Dock Street sushi restaurant.

Two doors down, Southwest Grill manager Moe Mourtaza watched Kim secure his restaurant and then moved to get sandbags of his own.

At Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which flooded during Tropical Storm Isabel, the water swelled above normal levels near ESPN Zone -- but still a few feet below the top of the seawall.

Faron Marshall, 43, of Smyrna, Del., whose Orioles game was rained out, stood under the awning there, looking at the menacing harbor and shaking his head: "It's getting pretty high."

In Port Deposit, which has not forgotten the wrath of such storms as Ivan and Agnes, Mayor Rob Flayhart had the often-contrary Conowingo Dam on his mind and the latest Susquehanna River flow measurements at his fingertips. The data calmed him -- even as rumors saying just the opposite raged through town.

One local radio station reported that the dam, just north of town, was opening 53 flood gates. The dam doesn't even have that many gates, the mayor sighed. With the real rain and the real threat looming, the last thing Flayhart needed was fake hysteria.

"We're very accustomed to going through something like this -- it's part of living here," he said. "You're going to see this rise, but no one is predicting any major flooding."

Along historic Main Street in Ellicott City on Sunday night, the Tiber Branch tumbled so violently through town that it set off the alarm in a jewelry store. Cocoa Lane bartender Brandon Ruth watched incredulously as water reached all the way beyond the banks to slap the sides of the coffee shop across the street.

Because this storm system has turned Ruth into something of an amateur meteorologist, he predicted that the latest dose would not top Sunday's intensity.

Cindi K. Ryland, owner of the Retropolitan antique shop on Main, wasn't so blase. Three years ago, preparing for Isabel, she spent 15 hours removing every book, every period hat, every armoire from the store -- everything right up to the chandelier.

Her nerves began to get the best of her yesterday when the fire department came by the shop with a flier saying that the Liberty Reservoir was spilling over the dam into the Patapsco River.

She peeked outside the store and saw a fellow merchant on the bridge, watching the rushing water. "How is it looking?" Ryland called. "Is it high?"

Her friend motioned back a so-so.

"I don't know what to do," Ryland fretted as he called: "There's nothing you can do."

That was Erikson Flynn's thought exactly.

"I never worry until I hear something about the dam," said the 29-year-old who lives on Main Street. "If the dam goes, we go."

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Nia-Malika Henderson, Anica Butler, John-John Williams IV, Justin Fenton, Melissa Harris, Ellie Baublitz, Tyrone Richardson and Laura McCandlish contributed to this article.

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