Swift Storm Fells Trees, Knocks Out Power

July 27, 2009|By Richard Irwin and Jamie Smith Hopkins | Richard Irwin and Jamie Smith Hopkins,dick.irwin@baltsun.com and jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

A severe and swift straight-line storm with winds in excess of 60 miles per hour and with more than 1,000 reports of lightning, hail and heavy rain struck parts of Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties about 6 p.m. Sunday, knocking down countless trees and causing power outages and power surges, authorities said.

"We have nearly 90 calls for assistance backed up," said a Baltimore County police communications supervisor at the height of the storm.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said there were still 25,000 power outages as of 10:45 p.m., with nearly 20,000 of those reported in Baltimore County. Carroll and Harford County counties each reported more than 2,000. BGE said it had restored power to 12,000 more customers.

Damage by winds and falling trees was reported on Berryman's Lane in Reisterstown and on Barnstable Court and Hunt Master Way in the Chestnut Ridge community, where golf-ball size hail fell.

Elise Armacost, a Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman, said that several large trees fell onto homes along Church Road in the Sunny Dale community, but that it appeared none of the occupants had to be evacuated and no injuries were reported.

She said a woman was trapped in her car on Church Road near Sunny Dale Way for about an hour when a tree fell on it along with power lines. She said BGE crews cut off power to the lines and freed the uninjured woman. Armacost said the crew of a county helicopter flew over the Reisterstown area surveying the storm damage and reported it to ground units.

"Everyone is crazy busy up here in Reisterstown," she said.

Andrew Woodcock, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Sterling, Va., said Reisterstown and nearby communities bore much of the storm's energy.

"It [Reisterstown] was the storm's epicenter," he said, adding that the storm then entered Harford County with similar results. He said the storm originated near Winchester, Va., and headed northeast into Maryland.

Nearly two hours after the storm hit Reisterstown, Harford and Carroll counties, it struck Cecil County then headed toward the Philadelphia area.

"The storm had a long life span," said weather service meteorologist Kevin Witt. He said the bulk of the storm was between 125 and 150 miles in length and spawned other storms less powerful as it continued heading northeast, dumping heavy rain throughout northeast Maryland.

A police officer at the Pikesville Precinct said there were many reports of power outages in the Reisterstown area as trees hit by severe winds were blown onto the ground or onto overhead power lines. "We have power outages all over the area," he said. "More than we can count."

He said the driver of a car in Green Spring Valley had to drive into a ditch to avoid hitting a fallen tree during the storm. No injuries were reported.

In Harford County, the storm caused a power surge in the 1400 block of Heaps Road in Whiteford, causing a fire that damaged the exterior of a house. No injuries were reported. Many trees were blown down throughout the county.

Cpl. Kurt Dominick of the state police at Westminster said that area was hit hard with heavy rain and several downed trees. In Sykesville, several trees fell onto Arrington and Raincliffe roads. Another tree was hanging on power lines at Black Ankle and Buffalo roads in Mount Airy, he said.

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