Nor'easter's backswing brings damaging wind

Gusts as high as 60 mph down trees and limbs, cutting power lines, forcing some schools to close

April 17, 2007|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN REPORTER

The backswing of an unusual spring nor'easter that dumped 3 to 5 inches of rain Sunday buffeted Maryland again yesterday - this time with high winds that snapped trees and power lines, cutting service at one point to more than 60,000 electricity customers and forcing some schools to close.

The storm slowly spun up the coast yesterday but stalled over Long Island, kicking back to Maryland steady winds of 25 mph to 30 mph for most of the day and gusts clocked at 50 mph to 60 mph, said meteorologist Steven Zubrick of the National Weather Service office in Sterling, Va.

"This is the same system that's responsible for the rain, and it has extremely low pressure, which means high winds," Zubrick said. "In April, it's uncommon. I can't remember too many of these. It's definitely not typical."

The winds were expected to diminish overnight, but the weather service said that residents could expect at least another day of blustery weather, with gusts of up to 30 mph or more.

High temperatures in the 50s were predicted.

Yesterday, utility crews scrambled to handle calls for downed power lines across the Baltimore-Washington area.

"That much rain, followed by high winds, loosens the ground and more trees are lost," said Linda Foy, a spokeswoman for BGE.

About 27,000 BGE customers remained without power just before midnight last night, including roughly 13,000 in Anne Arundel County, 8,000 in Baltimore County, 1,600 in Baltimore City, 600 in Howard and 400 each in Carroll and Harford counties, utility officials said.

When the power went out at 32 schools in Baltimore County, students were dismissed an hour early, school officials said.

Power outages in Harford County forced early dismissals at a half-dozen schools.

On the Eastern Shore, Queen Anne's County students enjoyed a 90-minute delay yesterday morning as school officials checked flooded roads, particularly those in low-lying areas on Kent Island and in Grasonville.

More than 3,300 customers of Delmarva Power were without electricity, almost 3,000 of them in Cecil and Harford counties, said company spokesman Matt Likovich.

Airline travel was pretty much on time yesterday at BWI Marshall Airport, despite high winds, but passengers headed for New York and New England were likely to experience delays, said Cheryl Stewart, a state aviation administration spokeswoman.

Flooding left by Sunday's rains remained a factor for some motorists yesterday, problems that were compounded by downed trees and limbs.

State police in Westminster said they removed tree branches in several locations in Carroll County, but no major roads were blocked.

Municipal police removed tree limbs to help out crews working to repair power lines in Hampstead and Taneytown early yesterday.

Across the Chesapeake region, as many as three dozen roads were closed because of high water or fallen limbs and trees, said David Buck, a State Highway Administration spokesman.

"The back of this system is with us, and we've had consistent 25 to 30 mph winds on both sides of the bay," Buck said. "Anytime we get something like that, it is going to take down some trees."

Yesterday's blustery weather was blamed for a brief power outage at the Baltimore Museum of Art, which caused officials to order all nonessential employees to take the day off, said BMA communications director Anne Mannix.

Power for the museum's facilities and security was provided by emergency generators.

The outage began at 7:50 a.m. and lasted about two hours. The museum's works of art were never in danger, Mannix said.

Ocean City emergency management officials said the resort saw little or no flooding and early yesterday had suffered only minor beach erosion.

"It's definitely breezy down here - 26 mph to 40 mph winds," said Buzzie Bales, the emergency operation center's deputy director. "We got a whole lot of rain, but we are high and dry."

Sun reporters Justin Fenton, Laura McCandlish, Glenn McNatt and Nick Shields contributed to this article.

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