Rains, high winds lash central Md.

Destructive storms flood roadways, cut off power

November 17, 2006|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,SUN REPORTER

A destructive line of storms packing heavy rains and high winds drenched much of Central Maryland yesterday, flooding roadways and cutting off power to thousands of homes.

With gusts up to 45 mph and a rainfall rate as heavy as 5 inches per hour in some areas, the storm sent streams surging over banks and overtaxed urban drainage systems with water that flooded heavily traveled roadways - with up to 4 feet of standing water at one intersection - during the evening rush.

No serious injuries were reported, but several people were rescued from vehicles caught in high waters, prompting authorities to close impassable roads. On many roads, traffic slowed as motorists forded water rushing foot-deep across the asphalt.

Even after the rain had ceased in early evening, motorists were reported stranded, and high tides exacerbated by wind closed other roads, including Bay Street in Anne Arundel County's Venice-on-the-Bay community - a name that seemed to fit, with the water more than 2 feet deep.

As the storms approached in early afternoon, a tornado watch was posted - but none had been reported before it was lifted at 6 p.m.

The powerful storms began in the Pacific Northwest this week and traveled to the South, delivering record rains and flooding with thunderstorms and tornadoes that have been blamed for 11 deaths.

The storms' intensity had weakened significantly as the system reached Maryland. Intermittent light rain began in the morning, but by mid-afternoon Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport had reported 2.2 inches of rainfall. In Baltimore, 2.07 inches of rain was measured at The Sun's weather monitoring station.

Closures of a downtown entrance to the Jones Falls Expressway, parts of Harford and York roads and Pulaski Highway in Baltimore County and scattered other locations made driving perilous.

Benn Edwards of White Hall was heading south on York Road in Cockeysville when water gushing across the road brought his car to an abrupt stop.

With the water rising to about 3 feet, firefighters sent a boat to rescue him and a passenger - his friend Terry Palmer, visiting from England, a place not unaccustomed to rainy weather. The high water prompted the closing of York Road north of Warren Road.

The men's rescue was one of many reported across the region, prompting authorities in Anne Arundel - who said they had performed four swift-water rescues by early evening - to issue a warning via press release: "Automobiles do not make good boats."

While some heeded such warnings, changing plans and travel routes - public schools in Anne Arundel were dismissed an hour earlier than usual - others found themselves stuck.

In Harford County, authorities made two swift-water rescues along Walters Mill Road and Ady Road along Deer Creek, near Bel Air, said Sue Collins, spokeswoman for the Harford County Division of Emergency Operations. Authorities also rescued an 87-year-old man from the roof of his car near St. Clair Bridge Road.

In Forest Hill, Paul Thomas and his wife, Saundra, watched as volunteer firefighters helped a woman get out of her white Mercedes while shin-high waters surround the vehicle.

"Firefighters tell me there's cars stuck all along here," said Paul Thomas, who lives near the creek.

Jeff Collier was looking to catch an early dinner at Dock of the Bay restaurant at Millers Island in eastern Baltimore County but opted for a meal at the Bay Shore Bar and Grill. High waters had blocked his route to his usual dining haunt.

"It's real deep down there," said Collier, of Harford County. "I got about halfway down the island and turned around. It was still daylight, and I could see it was too deep to go any farther."

Some of the worst flooding in Carroll County was along Keysville-Bruceville Road in Keymar, near the Frederick County line, where water from the nearby rushing Big Pipe Creek had washed over a 300-foot stretch of the road. Eleven roads in Carroll were closed, including two locations on rural Pleasant Valley Road. In addition to flooding, there were downed power wires and trees that forced road closures.

Rodney Smith, 66, a retired construction worker, made it to his home on Keysville-Bruceville Road from Taneytown just before the road was closed. He said the flooding was much worse during the torrential storm at the end of June, when two teenage boys drowned in nearby Little Pipe Creek on the border of Carroll and Frederick counties.

Baltimore police reported flooded streets, especially in low-lying areas, all over the city. The 6500 block of Erdman Ave. in East Baltimore was flooded with at least 4 feet of water, forcing a traffic detour.

Several traffic lights throughout the city were out, forcing motorists to pass through intersections with extra care. The 41st Street bridge over the Jones Falls Expressway was flooded during the worst of the storm.

In Fells Point, police barricades shut down blocks of Caroline Street south of Fleet Street by late afternoon.

About 4:45 p.m., with the rainfall mostly gone and clouds slightly parting, the afternoon soaking gave way to a vibrant rainbow east of downtown.

There may have been no pot of gold, but the clearing skies were a harbinger of the dry-out weather forecast for today and tomorrow.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Brent Jones, Frank D. Roylance, Richard Irwin, Nia-Malika Henderson, Nick Shields, Gina Davis, Ellie Baublitz, Laura McCandlish, Justin Fenton, Larry Carson, Doug Donovan, Chris Guy and Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.

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