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Maryland 'dodged a bullet' with powerful storm

Sandy linked to two deaths, causes widespread outages

October 31, 2012|By Scott Calvert, The Baltimore Sun

In Ocean City, while no injuries were reported the storm washed away about 100 feet of the oceanside fishing pier. The resort town notched its highest storm surge since Hurricane Gloria in 1985, with up to 3 feet of standing water on some streets.

By Tuesday, crews were already removing debris from the iconic and undamaged boardwalk, and contractors were brought in to move sand away from the sea walls.

In Western Maryland, the storm dumped more than two feet of snow in places. As it piled up at more than an inch an hour, a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 68 was closed. Trucks with snowblower attachments and a "towplow," a double-wide snowplow, cleared the way.

The snow was just one of many difficulties for highway crews. At the storm's height overnight, 132 state roads were closed and 111 signals were dark, according to the State Highway Administration.

"The challenge was the intensity and diversity of the storm," said Melinda Peters, SHA administrator. "We were prepared. We had the right assets in the right location to succeed."

Little by little, the transportation system has returned to normal.

The last airline to shut down at BWI Marshall on Monday morning was the first to come back 24 hours later. A chartered military Delta 747 from Ramstein Air Base in Germany landed at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

In Howard County, at least 20 million gallons of sewage spilled into the Little Patuxent River after a treatment station in Savage lost power late Monday night and didn't regain it until midday Tuesday, county officials said.

County Executive Ken Ulman said the county's public drinking water is safe and there is no need to boil water. "I want to be clear," he said. "There is no issue with the drinking water."

In North Laurel, Ulman said, two women and a man were taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center overnight, one in critical condition, with carbon monoxide poisoning after they attempted to run a gas-powered generator inside their home. Both women had been released from the hospital as of Tuesday evening. The man remained hospitalized.

In Baltimore, a ban on driving in the city was lifted at noon Tuesday, and most parking restrictions in low-lying Fells Point ended. The subway resumed operations, as did local bus service and its transit service for disabled riders.

Fells Point resident Mike McDaniel, who was walking his dog Tuesday morning, summed up the feelings of many Marylanders who had spent the evening braced for the worst: "This really wasn't that bad at all."

In Canton, Chad and Ilene Bailey braved the storm several times Monday night to climb aboard their 30-foot motorboat in Canton and make sure the bilge pumps were working. The wind was howling.

"I thought, 'Is this what a tornado sounds like?'" Chad Bailey said.

When the couple returned Tuesday morning, they were pleased to find "no more leaking than with a big rainstorm," he said.

At least 230 trees fell in the city, about half in streets, and the city had 35 crews working to remove them. Among the trees that toppled was an Osage Orange tree along Greenspring Avenue that was estimated to be at least 400 years old, according to the Friends of Druid Hill Park.

"This was a serious storm," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at a news conference Tuesday. "Our police, fire, EMS were all out in full force last night and we responded to every single 911 call and our police were highly visible," throughout the city, she said.

In the Dundalk neighborhood of Watersedge, Jean Parker was dealing with a backyard and basement full of water Tuesday afternoon. But she said her Baltimore County home has fared far worse in past storms.

"It's nothing compared to Isabel," she said. "And we didn't lose electricity…We're really blessed with that."

Parker got a surprise visit from Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who were touring eastern Baltimore County to assess storm damage.

Earlier, the two officials drove through the Turner Station neighborhood with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. All agreed that damage in the county was not as bad as many had feared.

Parts of the county experienced one to three feet of flooding , Kamenetz said, compared to six feet during Isabel. The county did not suffer as much tree damage as in past storms, he added.

Local officials also fielded fewer complaints about power outages than they expected.

"What I'm hearing from the district is that we dodged a bullet, and not as many people lost power," Olszewski said. "Not only were the leaders proactive with the storm ahead of time, but the residents took heed…There was better preparedness this time. People didn't mess around with it because they knew what the consequences would be…It could have been a whole lot worse."

scalvert@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporters Jessica Anderson, Luke Broadwater, Jamie Smith Hopkins, Alison Knezevich, Steve Kilar, Annie Linskey, Kevin Rector, Andrea Siegel, Candy Thomson, Yvonne Wenger, Scott Dance and Timothy B. Wheeler, and Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Sara Toth contributed to this article.

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