Heavy rush-hour storms knock out power, cause headaches for commuters

Thousands without electricity in city and Arundel; heavy rain floods streets, causes accidents

August 12, 2010|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

Heavy thunderstorms knocked out power for thousands in the Baltimore-Washington area on Thursday morning as rush-hour commuters struggled with flooded streets, accidents and downed power lines.

Across Baltimore and its environs, police dispatchers reported accidents, flooded roads and downed wires, and were bracing for more problems later in the day. Such was the force of the rain at one point that some drivers pulled over and stopped until the worst had passed.

The heavy rains continued through the night. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning at 11 p.m. Thursday, lasting until 2 a.m. Friday for Anne Arundel County, southeastern Baltimore County and Baltimore City with rainfall over one inch per hour expected.

In Baltimore County Thursday, a "bunch of accidents" were making driving difficult, a dispatcher said shortly after 7 a.m., as he fielded reports from officers dealing with flooded roads.

A few minutes later, a driver just east of Baltimore's Highlandtown neighborhood reported that Eastern Avenue had been "shut down," and that a firetruck was parked across the road to prevent people from driving there. Chief Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the Baltimore Fire Department, said the 100 block of Highland Ave. was flooded.

In addition, surging water brought traffic to a halt at two Pulaski Highway intersections — at Monument Street and at Moravia Park Drive — according to Cartwright, who also reported flooding on the 200 block of N. Lakewood Ave.

A driver in Canton said that Clinton Street was covered with water, and that "nobody can get in or out." By 9 a.m., Caroline Street at Fleet and Bond streets was also flooded and blocked off with caution tape, according to another commuter.

The rain had stopped in some areas of the city by 8:15 a.m. Severe thunderstorm warnings had been issued for Carroll, Howard and Arundel counties, but were canceled by 9 a.m.

In Anne Arundel County, police officers were directing traffic around downed utility cables at Windrush Farm Lane and Manhattan Beach Road in Severna Park. The wires were "causing a traffic hazard," a dispatcher said.

A similar situation was unfolding in parts of Carroll County, with wires felled by the storm in various locations, although a police dispatcher said he knew of none that had prompted road closures.

In Anne Arundel County, apparently the worst-hit area in terms of power outages, electricity had been restored to about 9,590 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers early Thursday afternoon, while 430 remained without power. In Baltimore, 1,105 households were still powerless, while 2,911 were back to normal.

Parts of Harbor East were reported without power early Thursday, but service had been restored by midmorning. Pepco reported that of the 100,000 customers with outages in the Washington area, the majority, about 72,000, in Montgomery County.

The State Highway Administration issued a statement shortly before 10 a.m. that said work crews were responding to downed trees, high water and traffic-signal outages as a result of the morning's severe storms across Maryland.

"Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution at intersections with traffic-signal outages," the agency said. It also warned drivers to never attempt crossing a flooded roadway, noting that 80 percent of flood-related deaths occur in vehicles.

"Two feet of rapidly moving water can float a bus," the statement said, "and six inches can knock a person off their feet."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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