Rain and heavy winds from the fringes of a major storm system hit parts of Maryland last night as emergency management officials prepared for several inches of rainfall expected today in the central and southern parts of the state.
Officials in Annapolis and other low-lying areas braced for possible flooding and wind gusts up to 40 mph by employing a public works crew around the clock last night. Sandbags were placed along City Dock businesses, city officials said, and 75 more were piled near the Second Street pumping station.
The rain and wind were driven by an Atlantic storm system that formed off the southeastern coast and appeared for a time as if it might become a tropical depression.
"They keep sending in planes to see if it's a tropical or subtropical storm," said Chris Strong, the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.
"Every once in a while, we get one of these storms, just offshore, that ... tries to become a tropical storm and doesn't have enough time, or the right conditions, to pull it off," he said.
The storm was forecast to move ashore along the border of North and South Carolina overnight. Counter-clockwise winds were driving heavy wind and surf onto beaches from the Carolinas to Maryland. Gale warnings, high-surf advisories and coastal flood watches and warnings were posted along the Atlantic coast as far north as Cape Cod.
Strong said yesterday evening that Central Maryland could expect more than an inch of rain overnight, with winds gusting to 40 mph or 45 mph. High winds were expected to take down trees and trip power outages across the region by morning.
Minor flooding around high tide was also a risk as the northeast winds piled an extra foot or two of water onto the western shore of the bay. Ocean City began reporting heavy rain late yesterday afternoon, with temperatures in the 60s and winds gusting to almost 40 mph.
In addition to gale warnings, beachgoers were told to expect heavy surf, some coastal flooding, beach erosion and dangerous rip currents. The onshore winds were expected to continue for several days as the storm moved inland, and then turned toward the northeast.
The worst of the storm should be over by this morning, Strong said. But the forecast for Baltimore called for more gray skies and showers, including possible thunderstorms, through Saturday as the storm moves past. In all, it could leave more than 2 inches of rain behind.
It is the first rain recorded at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport since Sept. 12. Also late yesterday, another storm system, located in the Atlantic east of the Bahamas, finally became the season's 11th named storm after pounding Puerto Rico and Hispaniola with heavy rain for days. Tropical Storm Kyle was expected to stay at sea but will keep the surf pounding along the Atlantic beaches into next week.