Rain floods Maryland roads, closes schools

Double-digit storm totals possible by Friday

  • Jane Campbell-Chambliss of Crownsville pulls up the leg of her capris as she steps into backed up water, including sewer water, on the sidewalk of Dock Street on the City Dock.
Jane Campbell-Chambliss of Crownsville pulls up the leg of… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
September 30, 2010|By Frank D. Roylance, Raven Hill, Liz F. Kay and Yeganeh June Torbati, The Baltimore Sun

A gusher from the tropics Thursday flooded streets, overwhelmed drainage systems, caused power outages and closed schools across the Baltimore area.

Rain gauges had already recorded 2 to 6 inches by daybreak Thursday, and the rain just kept coming. More was expected before daybreak Friday, with double-digit storm totals possible before the precipitation ends later in the day.

"There's another tropical connection that's still there, a lot of precipitation, and it looks like it has a trajectory that's heading right up this way," said Steve Zubrick, science and operations officer for the National Weather Service's forecast office in Sterling, Va.

School districts throughout the area closed early Thursday, and at least one, Harford County, was planning to open two hours late on Friday.

Meanwhile, coastal areas prepared for tidal flooding. In Annapolis on Thursday night, the city delivered another 420 sandbags to downtown businesses to raise their defenses against additional flooding expected at high tide overnight. More than 700 sandbags had already been deployed to hold back flooding on Dock Street earlier in the day.

In Baltimore County, a few neighbors in Bowleys Quarters were not concerned Thursday night. Ammie Hassell, 27, and her boyfriend, Darryl Augustyniak, 44, had already taken pictures of their backyard picnic table, fire pit and dock, which were submerged under water Thursday afternoon.

"We live in this, we just have to embrace it," Hassell said as she sipped a beer at Bruno's Italian Quarters restaurant.

Augustyniak recalled the last major storm — Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003 — when the neighbors gathered in a higher part of a nearby road, dragging their grills along with them. When asked what he does to prepare for flooding, he said he buys "two cases of beer and lots of food."

At the nearby shopping center, Ken Hoffman, owner of Carroll Island Hardware, said business had dropped off during the day. Customers who did venture out bought water pumps for their basements, and a few models sold out.

"I get nervous," Hoffman said, saying that he has a $400,000 waterfront house but no flood insurance. He said his home was spared when Isabel hit — the water "missed it by a foot."

Persistent southeasterly winds on Thursday pushed water north into the Chesapeake and held it high in the rivers and creeks on the Western Shore through what should have been the low tide.

In Baltimore, Fells Point residents who parked south of Fleet Street were advised to move their cars to higher ground before high tide, due early Friday. Fells Point suffered major flooding during Isabel.

The rain did let up at times, and some residents were able to take advantage of a midday break.

Cathy Perry brought her 8-year-old son, Nicco Suttles, to a Havre de Grace park to burn off some energy after his elementary school closed. The weather was warm and most of the rain clouds had dissipated, as he splashed in water that was lapping over a pier and into the park.

"We couldn't get to the ocean this year, but the ocean came to us," Perry said.

The storm combined a low-pressure system that developed over the southeastern United States with a heavy load of moisture from the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole. Tornado watches were posted, too, as the storm neared.

Just before 9:30 a.m. Thursday the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for portions of Anne Arundel County after radar images showed what might have been rotation in the clouds.

Forecasters later received photos of torn siding, downed trees and damaged shingles.

"We're calling it wind damage now," Zubrick said. "We'll probably have somebody go out [Friday] and look at it if they haven't cleaned it all up yet."

Road flooding, downed trees and power outages were common across the region, but there were few reports of serious injuries in Central Maryland.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reported that 38,000 customers lost power as the storm worsened. More than 21,000 of them got their lights back by late Thursday afternoon. The most outages were reported in Anne Arundel County — more than 14,000 in all.

BWI-Marshall Airport had recorded 4.04 inches of rain by 9 p.m., shattering the previous rain record for the date — 1.6 inches, set in 1920.

Annapolis recorded 7.92 inches by 7 p.m. The Patuxent River Naval Air Station reported 9.92 inches of rain through 8 p.m. In St. Mary's County, Zubrick said, "They're probably going to have at least 10 inches, I would think."

The storm washed torrents of muddy water from construction sites, overwhelming silt fences and ponds put in by developers to control runoff.  State rules require construction projects to corral runoff only from up to 1 inch of rainfall, not the 5 inches or more that fell in many parts of the region.

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