Structure collapses dot city, region

3 hurt in one of several incidents in storms' wake

February 13, 2010|By Joe Burris |

Three people were injured when the awnings of adjoining rowhouses crumpled in Northwest Baltimore on Friday, one in a string of collapses across the region as the weight of huge snowfalls exacted a toll on vulnerable buildings.

An antiques store in downtown Ellicott City suffered damage, and barns in Anne Arundel and Harford counties fell, killing some animals.

On Oakford Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, Marlow Hill, 66, surveyed the twisted metal on the steps of his home and pointed to the blood left when his wife, daughter and brother-in-law were trapped beneath the awnings.

"I first thought the ice fell off the porch," Marlow said. "But then I heard somebody scream." He saw that his relatives were trapped, and "I couldn't get them out," he said.

He said his family members were taken to a nearby hospital, but he didn't know their condition because he remained at his home. He said the neighbors in the adjoining home were not there.

"I don't know where I'm going to stay," Marlow said.

A spokesman for the Baltimore Fire Department couldn't immediately confirm the injuries, saying the department is still taxed by the fallout from the storms.

Officials throughout the region have been cautioning people to clear as much snow as they safely can from roofs that are flat or have a slight pitch, and to keep drains clear. But the instructions come with a warning: city and county officials acknowledge that there is a significant risk of injuries from falls by property owners.

An accumulation of snow caused Friday's roof collapse on an 1850 wooden building in historic Ellicott City that houses the Wagon Wheel Antique Shop.

No one was inside, but Ed Crowl, who owns the store and the building, said the exterior wall of the two-story structure buckled from the weight and the flat roof fell in on the top floor.

The building is on Tiber Alley, a small side street a half-block off Main Street's southern end.

"I haven't been open for two weeks because of the snow," said Crowl, 68, of Catonsville, adding that he's still a bit in shock.

Crowl said authorities called him Friday afternoon with the news, but they would not let him try to retrieve any of his antiques because of the danger of a further collapse. Asked if he had insurance to cover prized possessions such as an 1850 horse-drawn hearse, Crowl said, "I hope I do."

In the 40 years he has owned the business, "I've had two floods and a fire, but this is the worst thing that can happen," he said.

Three barns at Maryland Sunrise Farm - the former Naval Academy dairy farm - collapsed Friday, killing animals at the site in Gambrills, and the roof of a church in Lothian collapsed Thursday, according to Anne Arundel County officials.

Around midday Thursday, Fire Department officials got word that the roof of Miracle Temple, in the 5500 block of Sands Road in Lothian, apparently had collapsed, said Battalion Chief Steve Thompson. There were no injuries, he said.

In addition to the five steers killed at the organic farm, two more probably will be euthanized because of their injuries, said Edwin Fry, who operates the farm in cooperation with Anne Arundel County.

More than three dozen cows that were in a barn when its roof caved in have been moved to other barns, he said. The farm has between 140 and 150 cows.

Two more buildings at the farm were in danger of collapse, but neither had animals inside, Fry said. Equipment was moved from the machinery building, and a pole was added to prop up the roof of another.

"The steel has just bent under the weight of the snow," Fry said.

Anne Arundel County has a long-term lease on the property, said County Executive John R. Leopold.

Leopold said the county is working with Fry to monitor the buildings and has offered Fry "any assistance we could provide."

Elsewhere in Anne Arundel, the canopy over an island at Chesapeake Exxon, a service station on Route 450 near the U.S. 50 entrance, collapsed about 1:30 a.m. Friday, said store manager Nina Wooten. There were no injuries; the only person there at the time was the cashier inside the building. The service station has been shut down, she said.

In West Baltimore, the porches of five adjoining houses at Edmondson Avenue and Denison Street collapsed Friday night.

In Harford County, roof collapses occurred at the Fallston Airpark, a horse barn in the northern part of the county, a trucking company in Jarrettsville and a mobile home in Havre de Grace. The Prince of Peace parish center in Edgewood was the latest structure deemed unsafe.

"Its roof and walls are bowing due to the weight of wet snow," said county spokesman Robert B. Thomas Jr.

Back on Oakford Road in Baltimore, residents said the awning collapse was just one more frustration on a street where snow was piled knee-high and no plows have passed through in a week. One piece of snow-removal equipment came through to help fire crews reach the injured.

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