Winds punch out rain

Storm soaks state with nor'easter promising worse

April 16, 2007|By Tom Pelton and Chris Guy | Tom Pelton and Chris Guy,SUN REPORTERS

A storm that stirred up tornadoes in Texas and flooded parts of West Virginia dumped almost 3 inches of rain on Maryland, knocking out power to about 6,000 residents yesterday.

More electric lines could topple in the Chesapeake region today as the nor'easter drives powerful winds toward New York, where airlines are canceling flights.

"The wind will be the main feature of the storm, with speeds up to 50 miles per hour," said Richard Hitchens, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "With the ground wet, you could see more trees coming down, and that means power outages."

In Baltimore yesterday, rainwater flooded one of the lanes of Fleet Street, near President Street, forcing traffic near Harbor East to swerve. And in Hampden, the Meadow Mill Athletic Club closed its doors as a swollen Jones Falls threatened to flood the sports facility's parking lot.

"I thought it wasn't a big deal, until I saw that stream," said club employee Taylor Leaf, gesturing toward the muddy torrent beside the parking lot. "And then I was like, whoa, pretty crazy. I guess I got the day off."

On the Eastern Shore, rain pummeled the rural peninsula for hours, soaking already wet fields and causing minor flooding by afternoon from Crisfield in Somerset County north to Cecil County.

But emergency management officials were less than awed by yesterday's storm, even in Ocean City, which sits about 10 feet above sea level. Emergency dispatchers there reported no problems, even in traditionally flood-prone areas in the resort town. Talbot County emergency workers received only a handful of calls for minor street flooding.

"I'm not sure how much [rain] we've gotten today, but it's been significant," said John W. Swaine Jr. of Royal Oak, who has been a certified weather observer for the National Weather Service for almost 60 years. "It's too much for our farmers, that's for sure. It'll take a long while for their fields to dry out."

About 6,000 people lost power yesterday across the state, including the Baltimore area - not a high number compared with past rainstorms, said Robert Gould, spokesman for Constellation Energy. Most had their electricity back on within hours.

"For weather, it wasn't terribly heavy. It was very manageable," said Gould. "We expected it to be a little worse ... but we still have some strong winds coming."

Jim Decarufel, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said he expects more rain today, as well as strong winds and temperatures in the 50s. "If anyone is carrying around an umbrella, they'll lose it," he said. The rain is expected to end tomorrow, with breezy conditions and highs in the mid-50s. Gradual warming is expected during the week ahead and clear skies are expected.

Airlines had canceled more than 400 flights at New York's three major airports as of yesterday evening as the rising winds and rain threatened to deliver some of the worst shore flooding in 14 years. Violent thunderstorms and tornadoes caused five deaths in Texas and Kansas, most due to traffic accidents on slippery roads.

In West Virginia, emergency personnel rescued nearly two dozen people from flooded homes and cars in Logan and Boone counties yesterday. Two people were unaccounted for.

"This thing came down at 2 or 3 in the morning, when people were sleeping in their beds," said Logan Fire Chief Scott Beckett. "They just didn't know what was happening."

In South Carolina, one person was killed as dozens of mobile homes were destroyed or damaged by strong winds.

The storm also rained out yesterday's Baltimore Orioles baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards.

Annapolis city workers prepared for flooding by piling up sand bags along City Dock. Trees fell in Charles County, where there was a lightning strike, but nobody was hurt, according to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

"No damage or injuries and no serious flooding anywhere in the state, said Katie Leahan, spokeswoman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

tom.pelton@baltsun.com chris.guy@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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