Wind cancels fireworks, cuts power to thousands

January 01, 2009|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

High winds across the Baltimore metropolitan region yesterday canceled New Year's Eve fireworks, caused power outages in thousands of homes, flipped a tractor-trailer on a major bridge and toppled branches that hindered the movement of the light rail.

The National Weather Service issued a high-wind warning yesterday morning until 10 o'clock last night, cautioning that winds would top 40 mph, with gusts as high as 60 mph.

At midnight, instead of fireworks, several confetti guns were fired at the Inner Harbor as Mayor Sheila Dixon and the crowd, bundled up against the cold, counted down to the new year.

The weather service issued the warning for Baltimore City and Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. The winds were part of a cold front moving across the region, officials said.

Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. reported that its crews were working to restore power to thousands of homes in the region. But it cautioned that the high winds would probably cause new outages, even in homes that might have had power restored. As of 12:23 a.m. today, BGE's Web site indicated that at least 11,000 customers in Central Maryland were without power, while more than 38,000 who had lost power had it restored. The company said that branches and trees falling onto power lines were the main cause of the outages.

Downed branches on Reisterstown Road cut power to a pumping station in Pikesville yesterday afternoon. The Baltimore Department of Public Works urged residents in the area bounded by Windsor Mill, Old Court and Greenspring Valley roads and Gwynnbrook Avenue to conserve water by delaying showers, laundry and flushing the toilet. Power was expected to be restored to the pumping station after midnight.

The winds caused the Maryland Transportation Authority to issue its own wind advisories for travel on five bridges across the state. The authority declared wind restrictions for the Bay Bridge and the Key Bridge on the Baltimore Beltway, which prohibited large empty vehicles from traversing the spans.

But the driver of a tractor-trailer tried to cross the Key Bridge about 12:15 p.m. - and authorities believe the high winds caused the truck, which was empty, to tumble across all four northbound and southbound lanes on the bridge. Charges are pending against the driver, from Mikade Delivery Services of Glen Burnie, according to Sgt. Jonathan Green, an authority police spokesman.

The accident shut down the bridge until 6:30 p.m. and left the truck driver hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening, Green said. The driver of a sport utility vehicle also was injured, with a minor cut, after the truck crashed into his vehicle, Green said. Fallen trees on Ruxton Road disrupted light rail service between the Lutherville and Falls Road stops, according to the Maryland Transit Administration.

Baltimore officials rescheduled the city's fireworks display for 7 p.m. tonight, said spokeswoman Tracy Baskerville. New Year's Eve fireworks were last canceled due to weather in 1989, according to The Sun's archives.

Annapolis canceled its 7:30 p.m. and midnight fireworks displays last night, rescheduling them for 7:30 p.m. tonight, a spokeswoman said.

Baltimore Sun reporters Richard Irwin and Liz F. Kay and researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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