Workers Clear Storm Damage

Violent Winds Cut Power To More Than 30,000

July 28, 2009|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,liz.kay@baltsun.com

Emergency personnel and BGE crews worked Monday to clear downed trees and wires and to restore electricity to more than 31,500 customers in Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties after an intense straight-line storm moved through early Sunday evening.

No injuries were reported as a result of the microburst, characterized by straight-line winds, which was centered in a square-mile area near Franklin and Red Run boulevards in Reisterstown, said Baltimore County Fire spokeswoman Elise Armacost.

County public works officials estimated about 250 trees had been knocked down, about 200 in Reisterstown. That much tree damage complicates restoration of service, said BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy.

"The most significant thing about this storm is that it was very fast-moving," she said. "There are occasions where you can't begin restoration work because it's unsafe to do so."

About 40,000 customers had had their service restored by Monday evening, and 4,700 were still without power, according to BGE's Web site.

Tree debris had to be removed from equipment before it could be repaired, Foy said.

Although some residents have speculated that the damage had been caused by a tornado, the storm's radar signatures definitely matched that of a microburst, said National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Woodcock.

"Microbursts can do the same, if not more, damage than a tornado," he said. Straight-line winds usually knock down trees from the base, unlike a tornado, which twists and rips trees, he said.

Straight-line winds form when updrafts push water droplets higher and higher in the clouds, where the water can get so cold that it freezes, Woodcock said. "Eventually it's got so much mass in the top of that cloud that the updrafts can't support it anymore," he said, and the water and ice come shooting down.

"It takes the air with it," Woodcock said.

The worst of it occurred in Reisterstown, he said, producing hail and strong winds of more than 60 mph.

Nicole Windsor checked during her lunch hour Monday, but she still wasn't able to reach her house on Wiltonwood Road in Green Spring Valley because of downed trees on Stevenson Road, she said.

She and her husband spent Sunday night in a Towson hotel after the storm picked up and felled trees as they were on their way home from visiting her mother in Columbia.

"The storm became violent very quickly, very unexpectedly," Windsor said. "It went from raining to really being dangerous over the course of 30 to 45 seconds."

Gregory Hill's Owings Mills home escaped damage, he said, although his 50-foot trampoline was blown at least 30 feet from where it was originally standing, he said.

The wind was howling and whistling in the eaves of his house, he said. "I literally could not see across my yard to the neighbors' yard because it was raining so hard and blowing so hard," he said.

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