Strong winds cause power outages across region

Ship breaks free from marine terminal

February 25, 2011|By Jessica Anderson, Justin Fenton and Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun

Strong winds kept emergency officials busy Friday afternoon dealing with downed trees and power lines that forced road closures, while the Coast Guard retrieved a 1,000-foot-long ship that broke free from the Dundalk Marine Terminal.

The Atlantic Companion drifted or was blown across the berthing channel, which is about 600 feet wide. But it was soon brought under control by four tugboats, said Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Brazzell.

Crews responded to calls about fallen trees throughout Baltimore, roofs blown off homes on Falls Road and the partial collapse of a building in the 1500 block of E. Federal St., Fire Department spokesman Chief Kevin Cartwright said. There no reports of serious injuries.

In the suburbs, several roads — and part of the light rail system — were shut down. Meanwhile, utility crews worked to restore power to tens of thousands of customers.

The National Weather Service had issued a wind advisory with gusts of 45 mph to 50 mph expected. But gusts reached nearly 70 mph in Baltimore City, 65 mph in Harmans in Anne Arundel, 67 mph in Westminster in Carroll County and 65 mph in Dundalk.

The blustery weather came less than a week after strong winds tore through the area and spread a number of brush fires. One in Anne Arundel County drew more than 100 firefighters; another closed down a section of Interstate 95 near the Capital Beltway.

About 4 p.m. Friday, Baltimore County officials received more than 150 calls, including many for hazardous road conditions. A downed tree and power line was reported in the area of Greenspring Avenue and Ridge Road in Sparks.

In the Towson area, a man was trapped inside a car on Malvern Avenue, where power lines had fallen. Strong gusts tore through the fir trees along Malvern, knocking down one that dragged power, cable and phone lines onto a gray sedan. The driver was not injured but remained inside the car for nearly three hours as police and firefighters waited for BGE crews to shut off power.

"As soon as we get the go-ahead, we're ready to go in and give the gentleman the attention he needs," said Baltimore County Fire Capt. Lawrence Majchrzak as he waited.

More fallen trees were reported around the city, including in the 2300 block of E. Cold Spring Lane and the 5900 block of Bland Ave. Trees had fallen on wires in the 1000 block of Poplar Hill Road and the 1400 block of W. Franklin St., while a pole was knocked down on Edgegreen Road.

In Harford County, state police reported that several major roads were closed because of downed wires, including a 2-mile stretch of Route 24 from West Wheel Road up to West Ring Factory Road. U.S. 1, near Kalmia Road in Bel Air, was expected to be closed for about four hours Friday night because of downed power lines.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency urged motorists to delay unnecessary travel to let State Highway Administration and other road crews clear downed limbs and power lines and fix malfunctioning traffic signals.

More than 50,000 BGE customers lost power Friday afternoon. The area most affected was Anne Arundel County, where more than 17,000 customers were without power at one point. Baltimore City and Baltimore County each had about 11,000 customers without power at the height of the storm.

Crews restored power throughout the evening.

The wind's effects were felt on mass transit as well. The Maryland Transit Administration's light rail lane was not running between Falls Road and Lutherville at 5 p.m. because of a downed wire. A bus was being used to take passengers between those stations.

At the Bay Bridge, high winds forced the Maryland Transportation Authority to suspend the two-way traffic that is usually in effect on the westbound bridge at peak eastbound travel times.

The strong winds also halted container operations at Dundalk Marine Terminal after the Atlantic Container Line ship returned to a terminal pier.

The ship broke loose from its mooring when a line snapped, said Richard Scher, spokesman for the Maryland Port Administration. It ran aground at one point in the soft mud on a shallow side of the channel, he added.

"There was no physical contact with any infrastructure, no damage done, no injuries to any crew or labor," Scher said. Car and roll-on roll-off loading and unloading operations at the marine terminal were not disrupted, he said.

National Weather Service forecasters called for the strong winds to die down, to between 8 mph and 11 mph Friday night. Saturday's forecast showed winds decreasing to between 5 mph and 8 mph with a high near 45. The overnight low will be 36.

Sunday's high is expected to be 53 with a 50 percent chance of rain Saturday night. The overnight low will be about 41 with easterly winds between 5 and 8 mph.

Baltimore Sun reporters Michael Dresser and Jonathan Pitts contributed to this article.

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